Success Story

How a homeless shelter better protects their clients and staff with Solink

September 19, 2022

Challenge

  • Clients and staff in this environment regularly experience violence and disrespect.
  • Generating and sharing evidence of incidents with police is challenging.
  • It’s hard to share key information effectively between day and night shifts.

Results

  • Cameras, video analytics, and signage deter violence.
  • Incidents are caught on video, and video footage is easily shared with the police using email.
  • Day and night shifts can share information on people who have been temporarily banned due to altercations.

The client:
St. Michael’s Mission helps those experiencing homelessness in Montreal

St. Michael’s Mission is a non-profit charitable organization helping those experiencing homelessness in Montreal. During the summer, they are a day center, offering meals and other services. In the winter, they operate as an “Halte Chaleur”, or warming center. They often serve 5000 to 6000 clients per month in the winter, providing a warm, safe environment where they can have a meal, coffee and other services

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Julie Faulkner is the Administration and Development Coordinator at St. Michael’s Mission. She sat down with us to discuss why she chose Solink as the video surveillance platform for her charitable organization and how it has had an immediate impact on the Mission.

The challenge:
Keeping clients and staff safe on a limited budget

Julie and the team were concerned with the violent incidents in St. Michael’s Mission. Such incidents were occurring almost daily, and it was a top priority for the organization to ensure the safety of all staff and clients. As the Administration and Development Coordinator, Julie was looking for a one-stop solution that could provide necessary camera coverage as well as the ability to search through video, zoom in on faces and license plates, and share evidence with the police and among staff.

Julie chose Solink because we provide all of these needed tools.

"We were looking to protect ourselves and the clients from violent incidents, and potentially discourage them as well. If an event were to happen, we also needed a tool that could help us provide the evidence the police required for their reports and make sure they could resolve any problems."

Summary:

  • Clients and staff experienced violent incidents almost daily during the Halte Chaleur. It is difficult to keep everyone safe while servicing the community.
  • When incidents occurred, they could be difficult to resolve due to lack of evidence.
  • The night shift and day shift need to share information, including clients who have been temporarily banned from the facility due to violence or disrespectful behavior towards staff. Client aliases and verbal descriptions were insufficient to convey this needed information, which meant that the Mission was vulnerable to receiving banned clients during other shifts.

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Why Solink?

Julie was searching for an all-in-one solution. She found that the DIY products were underpowered to the needs of the Mission, but most commercial solutions were trying to upsell her on the number of cameras needed.

“Why did we choose Solink instead of a local solution in Montreal? I found that a lot of the commercial security systems weren’t interested in the smaller scale. They wanted us to sign up for a really big package that we couldn’t afford, or they didn’t bother returning my calls. So, I was really happy when Solink contacted me immediately. You answered all my questions, were super easy to work with, and you understood what we needed.”

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The solution:
Solink helps St. Michael’s Mission team up with the police to reduce violence in the shelter and the surrounding area

The team at the Mission has found that the security cameras and related signage have discouraged violence and disrespect. These measures have reinforced the message to clients and staff that violence and unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated, and that evidence can now be gathered and shared with the police should any violence occur.

“I think that there was some discouragement of violence near the end of the halte-chaleur period thanks to the cameras and the signs we posted. It is very reassuring to our clients that there is a strong surveillance system in place.”

Solink’s video analytics platform makes it possible to find and save evidence of incidents. This has increased the likelihood that events reach an appropriate resolution because Solink makes it possible to provide better information to the police.

In fact, St. Michael’s Mission now has an outdoor camera, and the police often request their video coverage of the area. The Mission is actively helping the police to keep Montreal’s downtown safe.

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“With our exterior camera, the police have really become our partners. We are located right downtown, and they often call us about whether our external camera has video of a license plate number or caught something else. We are collaborating closely with the police now to keep the area safe."

Sharing evidence has become even easier. Julie was previously sharing video clips using USB keys. Now she just sends a link over email and the police can see the video in their browser.

“At the beginning, we were using USB keys to share video with the police. That’s what they were used to, and we used several USB keys before we convinced them that sharing video using email works. They now trust us and Solink to receive clips by email.”

When clients are violent or disrespectful, the consequence is usually a temporary ban. The Mission doesn’t want to permanently ban clients because it provides much needed services, especially during the cold winter months.

When a temporary ban was issued, it was hard to pass that information between shifts. They were relying on verbal descriptions and aliases to alert the next shift. This meant that a person who was temporarily banned during the day shift might be able to get back into the Mission during the night shift.

Now they simply zoom in on the person’s face in Solink, take a screenshot of the person, and hand that picture to the next shift. This has led to more effective temporary bans and, as a result, a safer environment for staff and clients

"With Solink, we can zoom in on a face or a license plate. We are no longer relying on a verbal description to share information between shifts or with the police. When we need to temporarily ban a client because of a violent incident or they were disrespectful to our staff, we can just zoom in on the face of the person and share the picture. It is so much easier to transfer information between shifts now with Solink. We don’t always know a client’s real name, but now we can point to an image and say ‘watch out for this person because they are not allowed in for another week’ and the next shift has all the information they need to follow through with this."

The result:
Clients and staff feel safe knowing Solink is helping to monitor the Mission for violent incidents

Julie is very happy with Solink. She has been working closely with Andrew on our Customer Enablement Team to explore the platform and make sure that she is getting the most out of the tools we provide.

The Mission is better equipped to assist the police in following up on violent incidents and is partnering with the police to keep the community safe.

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For Julie and the team at the Mission, the most important thing is to keep staff and clients safe. St. Michael’s Mission can be a challenging place to work. She’s pleased that she can reassure everyone that they are monitoring the premises and that the zero-tolerance for violence policy is backed up with effective technological tools.

"St. Michael’s Mission can be a really intense place. There’s often the feeling of the potential for violence. The staff feel safer knowing that there will be a satisfactory response to violent events and that someone can go back and see what happened. It also helps to diffuse these situations, knowing that there are cameras recording what is going on."

Solink has also helped build a feeling of camaraderie between administration and the staff working with the clients. Before Solink, they weren’t as aware of exactly what was happening every night. Now they see the incidents, better appreciate the hard work of their staff, and have a better understanding of what they need.

Solink’s true value for St. Michael’s Mission

“The true value of Solink for us has little to do with economics. It’s protecting our staff and protecting our clients—and that’s priceless. You can’t put a number on that.”

St. Michael’s Mission’s three favorite features

For the team at the Mission, it is all about the security cameras and what analyzing the footage means for the safety of clients and staff.

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Video zoom

“We like the zoom feature. For example, once we find the event, we can zoom in and actually see a license plate or face. It’s super effective.”

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Video sharing

“It’s really great that you can share video with the police with a link in an email. It’s so much better than the conventional way of sharing an attached clip, which is just too much data for our Internet connection. Actually, because we are sharing a link instead of the clip, we can just send the entire video to the police instead of trying to cut out just the incident.”

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Video search

The team at the Mission also use the different search features to find violent events. They have found that the search feature really decreases the time spent reviewing video footage each day.

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