Written by Chuck Hindman - Alliance, Chair
Whenever there are complaints from guests about the Sleeping Center, they often boil down to two words: "The Rules". Even though the Walla Walla Sleeping Center is a low barrier facility (meaning there are few admission requirements for people who wish to stay at the Sleeping Center), there are still rules.
Someone can be intoxicated, have a pet or committed to sleeping with a partner – all things that are prohibited in other shelters – but are still allowed inside the gate at the Walla Walla Sleeping Center.
However, once inside, guests must comply with basic rules. In summary, they are,
Keep it peaceful
Keep the Sleeping Center free from alcohol or other drugs
Take care of your hut
Take care of Sleeping Center property
Look after your pet
Respect the staff
Exit the Sleeping Center by 9 am
Simple, right? Actually, not always.
If someone is mentally ill, that illness can make compliance secondary to all the other “voices” inside.
If someone is active in his or her addiction, basic reasoning is often shut down. And the addiction constantly “calls my name.”
If someone grew up in a dysfunctional home, who was there to teach the basic “rules of engagement” for civil relationships with others?
The sheer numbers of forty people, many with significant challenges, sharing a crowded 40’ x 200’ living space, is enough to raise some stress levels.
Even with sane, sober folks who are generally congenial, having someone else constantly managing basic life decisions gets annoying. If those guests were securely housed, no one would be looking over their shoulder, monitoring their behavior unless it violated a law.
Enforcing rules is not easy for volunteers, other staff or guests. Soft-hearted staff finds no joy in having to warn or even trespass an unsheltered homeless person. Yet without enforced rules, the Sleeping Center would fail to achieve its essential goal – “a safe place to sleep at night”.