Losing The Battle

It’s 1 am. All of the beds at the Charles Street Men’s Shelter are already occupied and an individual who has just arrived is huddled on the floor in a common room.  

A staff member approaches the individual, “Sam,” and tries to talk to him.  He is in his early 40s and despite being a man of tall stature, he appears child-like, with a fearful expression. 

He doesn’t say much, but it seems that past trauma has led him to become fearful of being around others. The intake paperwork takes a very long time to complete. Finally, it is ready.

Sam reaches his hand out shakily and all he can manage to write is the letter “x” a few times on the dotted lines. When the staff member collects the paperwork, she notices blood smeared all over the pages. 

She asks to see his hands and Sam is ashamed to show her. They are wrapped in toilet paper and are clearly infected. 

Sam is urged to seek medical treatment. He does not react well. The staff member is afraid he will run away, so she doesn’t press further. 

She offers him socks to cover his hands as there are no more mittens left, and he eagerly accepts these even though they are too painful for him to wear. 

On a night that is bitterly cold outside – so much so that it hurts to breathe – Sam then walks to the nearby temporary overflow shelter in search of an open bed. Upon arrival, he is offered a hot drink, but instead he immediately crawls under a table to sleep. Support staff at the two shelters touch base and make plans to try again in the morning to connect Sam with medical care.

Several weeks later, staff sees the man again. His hand looks different now. Three of his fingers have been amputated from frostbite.

With ShelterCare, Sam could have received medical attention right away in a familiar, safe environment. There is a better way.