Scripts for people sprawled out sleeping on the floor

Dear Ryan,

We are a library in an urban area.

A lot of our patrons experiencing homelessness like to sprawl out on the floor and sleep.

Do you have any scripts for our staff to address this issue?

Thanks!

Mary


Dear Mary,

Thank you for your question!

You don’t need scripts. Conflict de-escalation is almost entirely about nonverbal communication.

Here are a few recommendations:

1) Staff should try to approach loudly (not obnoxious, but not quiet). You want to try to avoid startling people who may have experienced profound trauma.

2) Staff should squat down a few feet away and say “Good morning” fairly loudly, but pleasantly. They may have to say this repeatedly.

3) When the person wakes up, they should say “I am REALLY sorry, but unfortunately, you can’t sleep here.” (This should be said with as much “I’m really sorry to inconvenience you” tone of voice and facial expression as humanly possible… “Sadness” while enforcing the rules goes a LONG way!).

A few other things to consider:

• What if the person won’t wake up?

Try REALLY hard to not touch the person and use voice only. If you have to touch, do so from a place where they can’t hit you if they come up swinging (people with PTSD sometimes wake up swinging).

• What if the person goes right back to sleep?

Repeat (more loudly) “I’m really sorry. I would love to let you sleep here. Unfortunately, I can’t.”

• What if the person gets angry?

This is just standard de-escalation, which is all of our trainings!

I want to repeat that again: conflict de-escalation is almost all about nonverbal communication.

Peace,

Ryan

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