Vice Squad
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Helping Homeless Alcoholics....By Giving Them Wine?

The Seaton House homeless shelter in Toronto was pretty progressive. Most shelters would not allow someone to enter if he had a bottle of alcohol on him. As a result, the homeless men would chug the bottle dry just before coming in -- a solution that was good neither for the drinker nor the shelter. So Seaton House set up a system where they would take alcohol for safekeeping, returning it to its owner when he left in the morning:
But as the staff collected bottles of Listerine, rubbing alcohol and cooking wine, they kept wondering whether they should return it in the morning.

So The Annex and The Fiddle was born. That's the name on the room where about 45 litres of wine are handed out every day. It opens at 8:30 in the morning and closes at 11:45 at night and each man is allowed up to one drink an hour if he can tolerate it, and a couple of smokes if he needs them.

The "pub" is part of a unique health program for homeless men run jointly by Seaton House and staff from St. Michael's unique inner city health program, the only one of its kind in Canada.

"People thought it would be crazy to let them drink in here — the staff wouldn't be safe," Manuel says. "But just the opposite happened. They took great ownership of having a place to go. When you let them drink here, the drinking goes way down."
And the risk of poisonings via the consumption of rubbing alcohol is greatly reduced.

Thanks to friend of Vice Squad Dima Masterov for the pointer.

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