Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sorry, it's the rules

I'm not sure if I should publish this post so if you're reading it you'll know I decided to 'publish and be damned.'

The Night Shelter is a brilliant scheme and I was delighted to have my chance to help out on Friday but, ever since then, I've been struggling with an issue.

One of the things about the Night Shelter, which has run successfully in London and other towns and cities for some years, is that there have to be strictly defined rules, Rules that you have to abide by. Rules like, if you're not there on time i.e. before 8.00 pm, then you're not allowed in.

So last Friday one guest arrived at about 9.30. His name was on the list but he was late so refused entry. Because that's the rules and there have to be rules because otherwise the guests will take advantage. If you break a rule once then next time it'll be that little bit later (or he'll be a little bit drunker or a little bit bolshier) and when do you stop? And besides the guests who'd managed to get there on time were objecting in no uncertain terms. 'It's not fair. We told him to come with us and he didn't so it's his own fault. You can't let him in.'

When I left the building at 10.15 pm it was 3 degrees on what was looking to be the coldest night of the year so far. We had space and spare beds and this man who'd made his way a few miles out of town to find us was sent out to sleep ... where? I don't know. I do know I can't see Jesus saying, 'Sorry but go away.'

I'm not on the rota again as Daughter's baby is expected in the next few weeks and I didn't want to have to let people down at the last moment, and I'm glad about that. Much as I think the shelter is a wonderful thing it needs stronger people than me to run it.


Furtheron said...

It isn't easy Liz but I do know from experience many of these people do need the rules reinforced otherwise they will push the rules to a point where the night shelter will not be a place people feel safe going to.

"Tough Love" I've heard it called

CalumCarr said...

I know exactly what you mean. Imposing rules is a problem of mine or rather not imposing them is.

But is it more Christian to send "your man" out in the cold than to break the rules and give him a bed? Of course, it isn't!

These are rules made by us and not God: they force us to depart from God's love.

katney said...

I was thinking about something along this line the other day--about fluttering around and organizing and making lists and all that to manage a large group.

It made me think of the disciples, when Jesus had been teaching all day and they flustered about and said to him: Dismiss them and send them home so they can get something for dinner. And Jesus said, just have them sit down in groups...

And he fed them.

Liz said...

Yes, furtheron, and I understand but still struggle with the reality of it.

Indeed, calum. I don't know.

Katney, we were looking at this exact story tonight in Zac's!

Leslie: said...

Maybe they need to assess the "rules" and put in an ammendment to where if there is still room, the person can be admitted. The time limit is set so that people who need shelter will be there at that time, and those who are late don't get admitted because there're no more beds. But beds still available? Do not send them back out into the cold!

MaryB said...

Night shelter work is hard for lots of reasons. Our parish had a night shelter for over 10 years back in the 1980s-90s, so I had plenty of time to experience the same feelings you have. I did stick to the rules - except when playing cards with our guests ;-)- but was often conflicted. Sigh.