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A lexicon of homeless industry jargon: No. 3

May 20 2009
The Pavement clarifies some of the hostel-speak you will encounter Self-medication If you are taking medication and living in a hostel, you may need to be 'self-medicating', ie taking the drugs at the times set by the doctor, but you may also be using alcohol or drugs to escape a crisis, depression or some other illness; this is also 'self-medicating'. But 'self-medicating' has a third meaning, which is that you're drinking or using drugs just to escape the monotony of the day. "Oh dear, James is self-medicating again." "What with?" "Special Brew." "Is it prescribed?" As this 'medication' is not prescribed, you are likely to be 'monitored' and face eviction. Risk assessment Everything in a hostel has a risk assessment, from the stained teaspoons in the kitchen, all the way up to leather swivel chair in the managers office (which if you ever get into enough trouble to see, you may notice is always slightly bigger and better spec'ed than the workers' swivel chairs). Even you'll probably have a risk assessment, although this one is specifically about your risk to others, particularly staff. If you ever get to see it (which you won't), you may be mistaken for thinking it is just a long list of everything 'bad' you have ever done in your entire life, rather than a balanced assessment of how best to manage any risks that you may pose, or indeed be susceptible to. Monitor Although some times it will be out of genuine concern and for good reason, hostel staff will only need the slightest reason to start monitoring you. You will usually be monitored because they are concerned about your physical or mental health. Maybe you coughed or said something a bit odd once. You will know you're being monitored when the staff start unexpectedly popping into your room approximately once an hour or striking up conversations with you during which they will skilfully and subtly attempt to elicit clues as to your mental wellbeing: "Hello, Peter. Have you felt depressed or down for at least 60 per cent of the day for 10 days out of the past 14?" If you humour them by answering these questions, you may notice them quickly ticking a form after you reply. After a few weeks of this you will almost certainly feel paranoid or unwell, even if you weren't before. Notes Although they all use different names for them, every hostel keeps daily notes on its residents. These are essentially a more mundane version of the gossip columns found in tabloid newspapers, featuring possible sightings of people and rumours overheard in the dining room. Despite the best efforts of the staff, they invariably make for dull reading. For the sake of those that have to read them, why not try to make sure you do at least one intriguing/scandalous thing every day? Health and safety If you have made a request and controversially refuse to accept that 'policy' is a valid reason for it to be denied, you will probably find the staff will revert to Plan B: "Sorry, Pam - health and safety." It is not uncommon for residents to be told that they can't stand where they are standing because it will constitute a breach of "health and safety".