Alternatives to Criminalizing Public Intoxication: Case Study of a Sobering Centre in Calgary, AB

Sobering centres provide a safe place for those under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to sober up as a more effective alternative to police responses to public intoxication. Evidence suggests sobering centres are cost efficient and reduce emergency health services and police use; they can be important facilitators for vulnerable clients to connect to treatment and long-term housing. Such services can be effective vehicles for improving individual and community health and well-being as part of a set of comprehensive responses to intoxication.

In Calgary, Alpha House’s sobering centre facility is an apt example of an effort to manage public intoxication more effectively. The Alpha House sobering centre operates as part of a continuum of services, including mobile outreach, detox and Housing First programs. Administrative data collected by Alpha House from its sobering centre, mobile outreach and four Housing First programs suggest considerable positive impact on client well-being as well as broader public-system utilization, particularly with respect to diverting costlier police and medical system responses to public intoxication.

Publication Date: 
Calgary, Alberta, Canada