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Minimal Barriers

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Minimal barrier or low barrier housing involves placing a minimum number of expectations on people who are accommodated in housing, or most often, a shelter. By having few barriers, individuals are able to access more services.  It also gives non-judgmental support to individuals who are already marginalized, enabling Lookout staff to assist the individual to identify and plan their own goals, starting with small achievable first steps that rebuild their confidence.

Examples of minimal-barrier at Lookout:
• All of our sites and programs strive to be wheelchair/mobility friendly.
• Addictions are viewed as a health condition and tenants are not expected to abstain from alcohol/drugs or from carrying on with street activities while living onsite – instead we open doors of opportunity to better health and lifestyle choices.
• Our clients are welcome to securely store shopping carts containing their belongings – giving them peace of mind their possessions are safe and encouraging them to come in to our shelters out of the cold.
• People are not required to take medication, but because of our minimal barrier philosophy, very few opt to reject medically-recommended treatments. Programs such as these usually work hand-in-hand with our harm reduction approach.


This minimal barrier approach ensures people make positive choices on their own rather than forcing their compliance. The Lookout Society believes a minimal barrier approach is necessary because many of our clients already face challenges beyond abject poverty, such as addiction, mental, emotional and physical illness, financial hardships, social skills, etc. Placing barriers to restrict access to shelters or housing further restricts people from using much-needed services.


Pet friendly is people friendly

The Lookout Society takes the minimal barrier philosophy a step further with a pet-friendly policy that allows clients/tenants to bring their pets into shelters and housing, rather than force people to give them up. This is important because for many homeless individuals a pet can be their best friend. It is not uncommon for individuals to remain on the street if their pet can not accompany them into housing.

Some other important factors:
• Pets are ‘family’ and often those who are homeless are isolated from their family and friends.
• Dogs particularly give unconditional love and attention, especially needed for people who are barely making it.
• Pets can be accomodated even when other clients are allergic to or afraid of animals by keeping them on leashes or having the animal stay in the individual's room.