Professor Giertsen is in the process of conducting research on a shelter (R) for women who are poor, without a steady place to live. They have long-time experiences with drug dependency and take part in medical assisted rehabilitation. The aim of R is improvement of living conditions for its residents and to assist the residents in obtaining drug control. R provides accommodation, food and helping out the women with different problems. One criterion to be accepted as a resident is ‘to wish for improvement in one’s living conditions’.
In this work Giertsen want to discuss some characteristics of R: Should it be seen as an institution, or does the place resemble an ordinary, civil place for living? The answer will not be to decide ‘either or’, but open up for discussing in which situations R performs as an institution and when it resembles a civil place for living. Further questions will be: How can these performances be understood, are they related to impulses and requirements from the outside, or from choice among staff and residents? These two kinds of performances are discussed on basis of activities in five types of situations which I find central to life in R: i) use of illegal drugs, ii) food and meals, iii) violence and threats, iv) control, v) talks and changes.
R is not isolated. Its concept and practise has to be understood in relation to official perspectives and managements for persons using illegal drugs. The official perspectives can be said to constitute a three-headed drug policy. One head is turned towards control, another is turned towards a medical care, and the third turns its attention towards social welfare. A short description of these three orientations, their ways of thinking, concepts, labels and measures is given in an early chapter, to set up a frame for discussing experiences, reflections and work in R.
In this perspective activities and happenings in R, its principles and ideals, are seen in relation to the dimension institution-civil life. And when R is not performing as an institution, what are then guidelines for activities, measures and work? And if there are no strict rules and models for the work, how is this considered, as problem or gain?
Activities, experiences and opinions among staff and residents will also be discussed in relation to the Norwegian drug policy: do elements of drug policy challenge and compel R to conform? Or is it the other way round: do activities, experiences and reflections among residents and staff from their life close to drug use, challenge parts of the drug policy?
In the end this opens up for questions on the characteristics and contradictions on drug policy in Norway and other countries.