Giving free booze to homeless alcoholics sounds crazy. But it may be the key to helping them live a stable life
On a grey January morning at 9.15, residents of the Oaks shelter for the homeless started lining up, coffee mugs in hand, at a yellow linoleum counter. At half past the hour, the pour began. The Oaks’ residents are hard-core alcoholics. They line up to get what most people would consider the very last thing they need: an hourly mug of alcohol.
Dorothy Young, the Oaks’ activities coordinator – a stocky, always-smiling middle-aged woman who is part cheerleader, part event planner, part warden, part bartender – stood behind the counter at a tap that dispenses cold white wine. She poured a measured amount of wine into each cup: maximum seven ounces at 7.30am for the first pour of the day, and five ounces each hour after that. Last call is 9.30pm.
One man was taken to A&E 109 times in six months. Another was picked up by the police or paramedics 314 times in a year
Windsor was drinking eight to 10 bottles a day. He drank until he lost consciousness. The next day he would do it again
But younger people don’t feel comfortable in the Oaks, which Muckle called ‘a nursing home of sorts, with alcohol’