This is such an important subject at a point in time when mental health care is severely limited for all. I volunteer at our community bike shop Erie Bicycle Recyclery. We provide bikes for all age groups. Our community has three resettlement/refugee/immigrant agencies. The majority of our clients are new Americans. 

We haven’t had any many behavioral issues. That said, it’s important to be prepared for the broad spectrum of society. Beyond new Americans we provide bikes for the homeless also. We had one male that lived at a local homeless shelter. He came in with a trashed out bike a number of years ago. He was always respectful and helpful. As with the majority we try to have them perform a few hours of work for repairs or a bike. He has been washing bikes for us for a few years and works outside in the parking lot.

One day he showed up and it was more than obvious something happened to him. Chuck was there physically but not mentally. His eyes were glassed over. He was difficult to communicate with. I assigned him a few bikes to clean. Closing time was nearing and I asked him to put away all his materials. He was having issues with rolling up the garden hose. It looked like he was slaying a dragon. He was not aggressive to anyone only his dragon. 

We had a volunteer that was a school teacher and was our greeter. I told her I was concerned for his health and our and will have to call the police to address this issue. She stated, Oh no, he’s okay I have experience with my mother who is schizophrenic. That was very wrong. Nothing bad occurred while we were open. Looking back at this issue this could have went VERY BAD. We all have a responsibility to our clients and volunteers to create safe environments. Chuck is very strong and as I found out he was high on meth.

Back just a few years ago the only response for this issue was our local police department. Also I know a person that is a police officer and he told me I was correct to call them. He has provided stories about his experiences with the mentally ill and people high on drugs. Now our police department (about 180 officers) has a mental crisis unit on staff.

So, to sum this all up, thank you Wade. My next email will be to the director of this organization to bring up this subject.

Eric Brozell
Lifelong bicyclist
Helped to start the Recyclery ten years ago

On Oct 7, 2023, at 5:01 PM, wade--- via TheThinkTank <thethinktank@lists.bikecollectives.org> wrote:

The Bike Connector is a non-profit,  volunteer-run, community-based program that collaborates with community partners to distribute and maintain free bikes.

We've been serving the community for five years and have traditionally worked with schools and social service agencies. Most of our customers are referred to us through partner organizations. Recently, we've been seeing an uptick in unaffiliated adults walking into our shop looking for bikes. Many of these folks have heard of us through word of mouth.  News of "free" bikes spreads fast. We do not know the stories of the people we serve, nor do we care. We treat everyone that walks in the door with dignity.

Occasionally we get people that walk in the door that appear drunk or high. There is a prevalent opioid use problem in our community. People often smell like they've consumed alcohol and/or weed. I recently noticed an adult visitor discreetly drinking a nip. He did not behave drunk and I did not intervene. I'd like to have an understanding of how best to deal with these individuals in a respectful manner. When someone comes into the shop smoking a cigarette, I don't hesitate to let them know that smoking is prohibited and to take the cigarette outside. When they smell of alcohol or weed, what do we do? When they exhibit signs of drug abuse or mental illness (stumbling, slurred speech, anger, confusion), what do we do?

We have policies in place for minors. With regards to adults, things get a bit more complicated.

Suggestions and resources are welcome.
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