The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Jul30ThuThe Salvation Army and law enforcement work together to help the most vulnerable. July 30, 2015 by Dianna Bussey
At 3 a.m. in the streets of Canada, very few offices or public places are open. It's not the best time of day for a person without safe shelter to seek help, get a hot coffee or find a place to lay their head.
- Filed Under:
Fortunately, emergency/crisis services—shelters, outreach services, emergency health services and law enforcement—are part of formal and informal partnerships that exist to serve this vulnerable population.
The Salvation Army and police agencies have a long history of partnership born out of being connected with society's most marginalized and often most vulnerable people. No one group or entity can provide it all. Partnerships are essential.
The types of collaborations between law enforcement and The Salvation Army are as varied as the number of responses. Police respond to any number of scenarios where a person has a number of needs. These might include a safe place to stay, food and rest, someone who will listen and come alongside in a difficult time, clothing and items to make a new start, spiritual care and counselling, accompaniment to court, and offering specific programs such as addiction treatment.
Police officers assist The Salvation Army in its mission, not only in being an avenue of connection with those who require practical assistance, but also in ways such as providing perspective as a part of numerous Salvation Army community and advisory councils, assisting in awareness and training activities, and general events and programs.
These partnerships are initiated from both organizations. And out of these relationships come increased respect, trust, the ability to expand each other's resiliency in difficult situations and some very innovative programs.
As an example of a collaborative initiative, The Salvation Army in Winnipeg, benefits extensively from having the community and particularly law enforcement (Winnipeg Police Service and RCMP) regularly meet to discuss and advise on programming and initiatives related to exploitation through prostitution and human trafficking.
This committee has been coming together regularly for more than 15 years and has identified some helpful basic principles when building collaborative partnerships:
- be specific and practical with objectives
- spend time listening
- be flexible—agree to disagree
- meet in a place of peace and safety
- have a balance between formality and informality
- build on and celebrate success
- be willing to help each other even if it does not benefit our organization
The advisory committee in Winnipeg is made up of personnel from The Salvation Army; provincial justice and corrections; agency, group and community representatives; municipal and federal police specializing in the focus area; and those who have lived-experience with having been exploited.
Although the people who make up the committee come from differing employment mandates such as law enforcement, corrections and varying degrees of theory and methods of service delivery, all work toward the common goal of helping to improve the lives of those they come into contact with.
The agency or organization that advisory committee members represent gives the service “in kind” and the representatives, while having those differing mandates, all come from a work ethic and personal value that believe in the dignity, respect and worth of all those victimized/exploited.
The benefits of this collaborative work are extensive for everyone involved. There's a sense of security in having a group meet to discuss gaps and learn from each other. A friendly approach is so helpful in easing the path of communication when a situation that requires a referral to safe shelter, an income-assistance worker, a counselling agency, addiction-treatment programming or a support group, to name a few examples, presents itself. And there's the ability for members to work as a team in navigating all the systems for best outcomes for vulnerable persons.
Along with benefits, there are also challenges, such as the high turnover of designates, particularly with law enforcement. It takes time to build relationships and the frequent movement of people can be disruptive although understood to be necessary. The Salvation Army also has a rotation of personnel so the embedding of an initiative into the general workings of the organizations is important.
Another challenge comes from the very nature of what law enforcement is called to do, such as responding to a person needing assistance today who was arrested by the same police officer last week. It's important that we all recognize the complexities involved in these relationships.
Earlier this year, to gain a better understanding of what was working and what could be improved in our working relationships to assist vulnerable people, two questions were informally asked.
They were posed to some law enforcement and front-line service providers within and outside of The Salvation Army.
What do you need from each other when assisting those victimized by exploitation?
What do you need from each other to create and maintain positive working relationships?
The answers are candid and most are highly similar. When assisting victimized and vulnerable people, Salvation Army personnel, others within the helping community and law enforcement all request:
- unbiased support to meet people without judgment or personal/moral bias towards the situation
- mutual understanding of the objectives of assisting a vulnerable person
- respect for confidentiality
- a collaborative response
- increased resources across all sectors to support vulnerable and exploited persons
There were also similarities around what's needed from each other to maintain positive working relationships:
- an understanding of the boundaries and limits of policies and procedures of the organizations
- open communication to enable consideration for each organization's realities and to better understand why the organizations act in a certain way
There were specific responses from law enforcement concerning what's further needed to assist those exploited:
- increased availability and flexibility of resources and access or ability to refer persons to multiple services that best fit the person seeking assistance
- increased help in seeking and managing the resources for vulnerable persons
Just as Winnipeg's collaborations between The Salvation Army and police agencies exist in cities and towns across Canada, these partnerships also exist internationally.
Exploitation is rampant in cities the world over. In one red-light district, a young girl who was exploited found restoration and healing with the help of The Salvation Army. This district is the location of a concentrated number of brothels, where approximately 9,000 people are involved in prostitution. Even more alarming is that this number includes many children who are sexually exploited and trafficked.
The Salvation Army helps provide care for those women and particularly children who have been rescued by law enforcement. The care is holistic and includes safe places, healthy meals, access to education and skills training, empowerment and social networking all within a warm and caring community.
As another example, a boy taken by those with the intent to exploit him as a herd boy in a neighbouring country was identified and restored through collaboration with police, the community and Salvation Army personnel.
The Salvation Army is very grateful for our police partners, including the formal partnerships around tables brainstorming better ways of working and collaborating to serve those who are marginalized, and equally grateful for the informal partnerships struck at 3 a.m. to help a woman with very few options and nowhere to sleep.
Dianna Bussey is the director of The Salvation Army's correctional and justice services in Winnipeg and consults on human trafficking issues for the Canada and Bermuda Territory's social services department at territorial headquarters.
Reprinted with the permission of the RCMP.