Service Restrictions and Barring in Shelters

In congregate settings, like shelters and drop-in centers, there has to be some expectation of behaviour. One could argue that the larger the building or operation, the more important it is to have staff consistently apply expectations of behaviour. The good news is that most guests will be in compliance with the guidelines most of the time. The part that becomes difficult is what to do when people do not consistently meet the expectations of behaviour? This is where service restrictions and barring come into play.

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Street Cleaning Does Not End Homelessness

This week, yet again, someone forwarded me an article about a new employment initiative for people that are homeless. Hold on to your hats, this employment initiative focused on street cleaning in the downtown of a major metropolitan area. Tell me whether you have heard of such a thing before. (As an aside, why does every community that does this think they are the first to think of it and that doing so will put an end to panhandling?)

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Staff Change as the Shelter Changes

I have the pleasure of working on some large scale shelter transformations these days. It is easy to say you are becoming a housing-focused shelter and something different to put into practice. The ideas, concepts and techniques are transferable across jurisdictions. That said, we are noticing a distinct patter in the reactions of existing shelter staff as they work through the transition over several months. It looks something like this (and I don’t know the author of this graphic, so don’t know who to attribute this bit of genius to):

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Three Aspects of Coordinated Entry

Many communities have worked hard on coordinated entry. This has been transformative in many communities. Side doors are closing. Access to housing with supports is becoming better defined. Priorities are being established at the community level. These are all good things.

But coordinated entry is just one part of the process. An important part, but not the whole picture. My fear is that so much effort has been placed upon entry that communities are creating and generating wait lists to nowhere. That is a problem.

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Reimagining Engagement and Roles for Volunteers and Donors During the Holiday Season

Since Giving Tuesday I imagine many of your organizations have been gladly accepting financial donations and the like. It is the time of year of giving, and for many non-profits, more money will come over in this stretch towards Christmas than any other time of the year. There will also be a seeming abundance of people wanting to volunteer or get involved in a toy drive or want to deliver Christmas hampers or serve Christmas dinner. Some of this may make sense to you; some of it will not. There is a madness to it all that repeats every single year that can seem overwhelming. And there are legitimate questions like, “Where is all this help the rest of the year?”

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Making Warm Handoffs Work

A warm handoff is a transition conducted between two members of the support team in the provision of homelessness and housing services. Usually the warm handoff (and the focus of this blog) occurs between the homelessness side of the system (outreach worker, shelter staff, navigator) and the housing side of the system (case manager, aftercare worker, follow-up worker, housing support specialist). That said, there are times when the warm handoff can occur between case managers (for example, a reshuffling of the caseload means the client is moved from one case manager to a new case manager). I want to explore ways in which the warm handoff can be improved upon for maximum success in the support process.

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8 Tips to Add More Harm Reduction Practices to Your Shelter

Harm reduction exists on a continuum. So, too, does the implementation of harm reduction practices in shelter. You can range from managed alcohol programs within shelter like the Shepherds of Good Hope in Ottawa (sometimes called Radical Harm Reduction) or smaller steps by providing access to shelter after having used alcohol or other drugs without precondition or things like breathalyzers.  I am a big fan of shelters like Alpha House in Calgary which is one of the preeminent wet shelters I have ever visited and has integrated harm reduction into all that they do, as well as specialized harm reduction programs within larger shelters, like the Riverfront program at the Calgary Drop-in Centre. Not every shelter is ready to immerse themselves into a managed alcohol program like the Shepherds of Good Hope or fully integrate harm reduction into all that they do like Alpha House, but there are some tips and practices that can be followed to add more harm reduction practice to your shelter. Here are eight:

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Gaining Input from Service Users: A New Opportunity

One of the challenges confronted by service providers is, “How do I get meaningful feedback from service users?”

Let’s assume first that you are a service provider that actually cares about what your service users think. You may have tried exit surveys or exit interviews. You may have tried sending follow up surveys to people once they moved into housing. If you are a shelter or drop-in center you may have tried consumer meetings and focus groups.

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Racial Equity and the VI-SPDAT

Some communities, especially on the West Coast, have noticed in their data and/or anecdotally have expressed concerns with racial equity and the VI-SPDAT. I am glad they reached out with their concerns as this is good dialogue to have. We should have a tool – and approaches to administering the tool – that are as free from bias and inequity as possible. The two major concerns expressed are, firstly, that non-white people do not score high enough in the VI-SPDAT, and secondly that PSH resources disproportionately go to white people.

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Eligibility Does NOT Equal Entitlement

Eligibility means the state of having the right to do or obtain something through satisfaction of the appropriate conditions  (my emphasis added).

Entitlement means the fact of having a right to something; the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment  (again my emphasis added).

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