[Hpn] Shelter survey report: SHUT OUT...

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Sun, 24 Sep 2000 16:27:08 -0700

ok, Tom. here 'tis. it ought to keep you busy reading for a while (if 
the post is small enough that it won't "bounce" from the list!)the 
raw numbers are all tight and right (I think), but the percentages 
I'm not so sure about. and I'm too burned out to play with my 

I knew there was a reason I've been jamming on this thing all 
weekend. enjoy! discuss! stir some shit!

comments? questions? ask away!


chance (aka anal retentive policy wonk)


SHUT OUT... with plenty to say.
The Voices of Homeless People in San Francisco's Shelters

A Report by the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco


"As rich as this country is, there should not be homelessness here."
				40 year old African American male

San Francisco currently provides shelter for about 15% of the 
11,000-14,000 men, women and children who have nowhere else to go on 
any given night in America's tightest housing market. The heated 
competition for housing in the face of skyrocketing rents in San 
Francisco drives the price of housing beyond the reach of low-income 
renters, so shelters are increasingly becoming destinations, rather 
than the emergency accommodations they were created to be. While 
homeless shelters are the least desirable method of coping with lack 
of housing, current federal spending practices have de-prioritized 
the provision of an adequate supply of permanent, low-income 
affordable housing. The result has, unfortunately, served to ensure 
these institutions will likely be with us for many years to come.

The Coalition on Homelessness led a community effort to survey 407 
homeless people during the months of August and September, 2000. The 
purpose of this survey was to capture the input of homeless people to 
guide efforts in redesigning the way San Francisco provides homeless 
shelter services.

What we found was that homeless people had a lot to say about San 
Francisco's shelters, and they welcomed the opportunity to tell us 
their views. Survey respondents were very articulate as they 
expressed their views and experiences on what worked and didn't work 
in San Francisco's shelters. Their responses on how to improve our 
homeless shelters were also very clear and creative.


A recent ballot initiative, Proposition E - which would have stripped 
single adult public assistance recipients of cash benefits - was 
defeated by voters on the March 2000 ballot. While it was being 
considered, City departments were meeting behind closed doors to 
develop a response by redesigning the shelter system.

The Coalition on Homelessness responded by demanding an open dialogue 
and input from homeless people on what changes should be made to the 
shelter system. The "Strengthening Single Adult Shelter System" 
committee was formed though the Local Homeless Coordinating Board as 
part of HUD's Continuum of Care process.
In addition, the Coalition on Homelessness put together this survey 
to gather the thoughts and ideas of homeless people themselves on how 
they felt the shelter system should be designed.

We asked a lot of open-ended questions about various aspects of the 
shelter to ensure creative unlimited responses. What we received was 
exactly that. Homeless people were frank and open, and had countless 
innovative ideas. If acted upon, these recommendations will truly 
transform San Francisco's shelter system from places where people 
stay homeless to places that are responsive launching pads up and out 
of homelessness.

This report is meant to impact any shelter re-design efforts and also to:

o Direct the spending of the $240,000 currently available to 
re-design the shelter system,

o Inform the re-bidding process for both MSC-North and MSC-South shelters, and

o Be introduced into language regarding shelters in the City's 5-year 
homeless plan, entitled "Continuum of Care".

The Coalition will use responses from this survey to form our agenda 
for reforming the single adult shelter system. We will continue to 
work tirelessly to make homeless peoples' voices heard, and then 
acted on.


This survey is not meant to be a scientific sampling. Instead, the 
following survey responses offer us a reflection of what the 407 
homeless people who were surveyed want and need from San Francisco's 

We attempted to ensure that homeless people were adequately 
represented by choosing sites that, together, would represent the 
diversity of homeless people in San Francisco. Over 50 sites were 
chosen city-wide, and special attention was paid to those services 
targeting specific populations. However, most sites were locations 
where homeless people congregate, including many service sites. As a 
result, there are many populations under-represented that tend to be 
part of the hidden homeless population.

For example, of the 407 people we surveyed, only 67 were female, and 
only two identified as transgender. This is primarily a result of two 
things: only single adults were targeted, leaving out those with 
children. Women and transgenders tend to be under served in homeless 
services, and as a result these populations tend to be hidden (i.e. 
"Sofa-bed surfing") and inaccessible to survey takers. Seniors were 
also under-represented, as well as young adults, Asians, Native 
Americans for these same reasons. We did not ask for neighborhood of 
origin, since many neighborhoods in the city do not have services or 
have few services for homeless people. We had to rely on street 
surveys in several neighborhoods.  We can only assume that these 
populations would be under-represented as well. Lastly, we surveyed 
only in Spanish and English, so those speaking other languages would 
not be represented here.

Who was Surveyed
Surveys were conducted during the months of August and September 
2000. Surveys were conducted at 51 different sites, including 
shelters, self-help centers, food lines, drop-in centers, public 
health facilities, low-income SRO hotels, welfare offices, and the 
streets and parks of San Francisco.

Survey Sites:

Senator Hotel
Cambridge Hotel
Cadillac Hotel
United Nation Plaza
Cesar Chavez St.
Day Labor Program
GA Office
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Lutheran Church
Mission Shower Project
Delores Street Shelter
Third Baptist Church
Chinatown Tenants Assoc.
Chinatown streets
Marian Residence
Tom Waddell Clinic
South Beach Drop-in
Episcopal Sanctuary
Metropolitan Community Church
Hospitality House Shelter
McMillan Drop-in
St Paulus
Haight St.
Castro St.
Vehicularly Housed Residents' Assoc.
16th & Mission St.
24th and Mission St.
Haight Ashbury Food Program
St. Anthony's
SF General Hospital
SF Main Library
Washington Square Park
A Woman's Place
A Man's Place
ARA Hotel
Raymond Hotel
Swords to Plowshares
Young Community Developers
Bayview Hunter Point Streets Bayview MSC
Hamilton Family Shelter
Bayview Health Clinic
Tenderloin Self-Help
Powell St.
6th & Market St.
Coalition on Homelessness, SF
Turk and Larkin St.
Pine St.
Matt's Place/Queer Youth Shelter

Survey respondents who stayed in shelters:

Yes				354		87%
No				 53		13%

Average number of months since respondents last stayed in shelters:

1 month or less			317		78%
Less than 3 months		  7		  2%
3 to 6 months			 18		  4%
6 to 12 months			 28		  7%
13 to 24 months			 17		  4%
More than 24 months		 20		  5%

Ethnicity of survey respondents:

Caucasian			132		32%
African-American/Black		119		30%
Latino/a/Chicano/a		100		25%
Native American		 	 13		  3%
Pacific Islander		 	   8		  2%
Asian				   4		  1%
Other				  26		  6%
Decline to answer		   5		  1%

Age of survey respondents:

18-24				  29		 7%
25-34				  74		18%
35-54				 240		59%
55+				  51		13%
Decline to answer		  13		 3%

Gender of survey respondents:

Male				334		82%
Female				 67		16%
Transgender			  2		 0.05%
Other				  2		 0.05%
Decline to answer		  2		 0.03%

Veteran status of survey respondents:

Veterans			 97		24%

Respondents who had children living with them:

Yes				   9	 	 2%

Experiences with San Francisco's Shelter System

When we asked the people we surveyed who stayed at shelters what they 
liked most and least about San Francisco's shelters, we found that 
the majority of our respondents liked the most basic aspects of 
shelters best, and that the majority's chief complaints went much 
deeper than that.

Liked Best

"...That they exist"
		24 year old African Latino male

Off the Streets
The most common response (175 respondents) to this question was the 
very basic service that shelters provide - an emergency place to get 
off the streets.  Respondents liked that they had a place where they 
were away from the dangers of the street, and police harassment. 
Respondents articulated that they appreciated a place to go in an 

The second most common response to what people liked about shelters 
was that it was a place to sleep.  119 individuals surveyed noted 
again, a most basic need being met, that is, the need for sleep.

Nutritional Food
The third most common response (95 respondents) was that what they 
liked most about the shelter was the nutritional food that was 
provided.  This again pointed to having residents most basic needs 
being met. 

Many respondents (91) stated that the best thing about the shelters 
was the access to showers.  While there were many comments throughout 
the survey about needing more and cleaner shower facilities, clients 
felt having access to them was very important.

Significantly, 80 respondents, or 22% stated that there absolutely 
nothing that they liked about the shelters. This was quite startling, 
and calls for a close look at what shelters are not providing for 
these individuals. 

The following is a breakdown of number and percents of what 
respondents liked best and least about the shelters.

Emergency place to get off the streets	175	47%
Sleep					119	32%
Nutritional Food				  95	26%
Showers					  91	25%
Nothing					  80	22%
Services					  70	19%
Time to plan/get oneself together		  42	11%
Toiletries				  22	  6%
They're accessible			  21	  6%

The following are categories 5% and under

Safe & healthy				19	5%
Staff					18	5%
Sharing with other residents		11	3%
Length of stay				 6	2%
Location				 5	1%
Setting/Physical space			 4	1%
Rules & Structure			 4	1%
Privacy					 4	1%
Pets					 1	0.27%
Culturally specific			 1	0.27%
Volunteer program			 1	0.27%
Storage					 1	0.27%

Like Least

"I've seen them treat people very disrespectfully. A lot of cursing 
and overly loud voices. I think the staff could use a lot more 
training in dealing with people in crisis situations"
					32 year old white male

Shelter Staff
The most common response (180 or 53%) to what individuals who used 
shelters like least about them was the staff. This was a dominant 
theme throughout the surveys. Many respondents felt that staff was 
disrespectful and unresponsive. These responses indicate that the 
quality of staff at shelters plays a decisive role in whether 
residents have a positive experience.

"Drugs in shelter.  Staff dealing drugs. Clients dealing drugs. 
Disrespectful of elders."
					47 year old African American male

Dirty and Insufficient Facilities
The second most common response (153 or 45%) was that facilities were 
not only dirty but insufficient. Survey respondents complained about 
dirty floors, sheets, toilets, and showers.   In addition, many 
respondents did not feel there was enough bathrooms and showers in 

"No laundry facilities. No toilet paper. No towels. They don't clean. 
I guess the same sheet was on there when I got there. It was dirty. 
The blankets stink. And the staff are really rude."
					42 year old white male

Noisy Facilities
The third most common response (90 people) was about the level of 
noise in the shelter.  Respondents felt strongly that the level of 
noise interrupted their peace of mind, and for some, their sleep.  

The following is complete chart on all responses to what people who 
stayed in shelters liked least about them:

Shelter staff			180	53%
Dirty & insufficient facilities	153	45%
Noisy facilities			 90	27%
Lack of privacy			 76	23%
Drug & alcohol use on premises
by staff/clients			 48	14%
Other clients			 41	12%
Insufficient toiletries		 39	12%
Food				 38	11%
Lack of equality			 32	  9%
Overcrowded/Too confining	 31	  9%
Violence & theft			 30	  9%
Hours of operation		 30	  9%
Access				 27	  8%
Lack of services			 26	  8%
Isolation				 18	  5%
Unsafe				 16	  5%

The following answers were less than 5% of responses:

Lack of beds			 15	  4%
Too many rules			 13	  4%
Lack of building maintenance	 11	  3%
Management (no oversight of staff)  9	  3%
Spread of diseases		  7	  2%
Smoking				  6	  2%
Pests/lice			  6	  2%
Volunteer system		  4	  1%
Not enough ventilation		  4	  1%
Lack of respect based on identity	  4	  1%
Lack of client input		  3	  1%

Rules and Regulations

Individuals who stay in shelters were asked what changes they would 
make to the rules and regulations. The responses were quite varied, 
however, there were numerous common themes that appear in response to 
this question, and many others throughout the survey.

"It is traumatic being homeless anyway without not being able to be 
with your partner.  There should be some sort of access without being 
written up."
					45 year old white female

Better staff and management in Shelters

"Want to be treated like human beings"
					50 year old African American male
					(and former Vietnam POW)

The most common (107 or 35%) responses were around the kind of staff 
employed at the shelter. People wanted staff and management who are 
"respectful, caring and diverse". Again, this points to a common 
theme throughout the survey - that respondents see staff as critical 
to shelter operations.

People want management to ensure staff follow rules, and also ensure 
that staff enforces rules; that staff are educated on medical 
emergencies and that shelters should provide staff training, along 
with monitoring that rules are upheld. There should be no favoritism, 
and consistent use of policy.

Many of those on the streets are formerly incarcerated or have been 
institutionalized, and want a less intimidating atmosphere, a safe 
place off the streets. They did not want staff who make the shelters 
feel like jails.

More Flexible Hours

"More freedom to come and go so you are not restricted to the 
shelter.  If you can go place at night it helps you feel more part of 
the community and get out of homelessness"
					31 year old African American female

61 people, or 20%, responded as wanting more flexible hours in the 
shelter system. People want more flexible exit and entry times, 
especially those who are employed. Also, people who have medical 
orders for bed rest from a physician have complained of not being 
able to follow those medical orders due to inflexibility by shelter 
staff and shelter policies. Respondents would like to change the time 
residents get off the floor in the morning, have later curfews, and 
check-in times. They would like the shelters to be open 24 hours a 
day with flexible in and out times, especially in bad weather.

Simpler Access to Shelters

"When it is cold and raining at 7:30 at night, we have to stand 
outside and wait until 9:00 p.m. to get in."
					50 year old African American male

Many homeless people (48 respondents or 16%) wanted a simplified 
access system to get into the shelter. These included a variety of 
comments like not waiting outside for beds - especially in the rain - 
more passes for in and out and overnight privileges, improving the 
lottery system, a simpler access process, and a no turnaway policy 
for shelters by expanding shelter capacity.

Limit drug and alcohol use and sale by staff and clients
44 people, or 14%, wanted to limit drug and alcohol use on-site in 
the shelters among both clients and staff.  This included a stop to 
the rampant drug dealing  by staff working on the premises.  In 
addition, many individuals wanted to limit smoking in the shelters.

Other recommendations that could be learned from this survey are: 
improving services, better cleaning of facilities, informing clients 
of rules (for staff and clients), having pets in shelter or space 
available for pets, allowing people to have their own food, and 
having independent shelter monitors and fair rules, as well as 
uniform enforcement of those rules.

The following is a breakdown of answers to "changes wanted" to rules 
and regulations:
Wanted better staff			107	35%
People did not respond to question	104	25%
Wanted more flexible hours		  61	20%
Simpler access to the shelters		  48	16%
Wanted to limit drug and alcohol
use and sale by staff and clients		  44	14%
Improved Services			  38	12%
Cleanliness				  27	  9%
Inform Clients on Rules			  22	  7%

less than 5% had these responses:

Allow Pets in Shelters			  15	  5%
Everything is O.K.			  10	  3%
Allow people to have own food		   8	  3%
Have Independent Shelter Monitors	   7	  2%
Have Fair Rules				   7	  2%
Clients help run shelter			   6	  2%
Better Finance System			   5	  2%
Smaller Shelters (environment)		   5	  2%
Separate Space for sub-populations	   4	  1%
No Sex					   4	  1%
Control Noise Level			   3	  1%
Change Money Management		   2	  1%
Longer stay in shelter			   2	  1%
More Privacy				   2	  1%
Wake Up calls    (this is a service)		   1	  1%
Respect Confidentiality			   1	  1%


"The goal is to go out of business. Everyone has a right to housing."
					38 year old Pacific Islander male

Respondents were asked what the philosophy of their ideal shelter 
would be, and the results of this question were astounding.  While 
responses around what they liked best about the shelter focused on 
survival issues - such as a safe place to get off the streets - in 
their ideal shelter, respondents were asking for much more. 

"Openness - respect for all and respect for the different places 
people are coming from, and move them out of homelessness."
					42 year old African American male

"To assist men, women and children of all races to have a safe, clean 
place to live until they can find a job and affordable housing."
					49 year old African American Male
Comprehensive Services
In fact the number one response, with 158 people, or 44% was that 
comprehensive services would be included in the philosophy of the 
ideal shelter. This included meeting all the individual and varied 
needs any one shelter resident may have - from basics such as food to 
job placement, housing, and medication.

Home-like atmosphere
The second most common response (78 people or 22%) is that people 
wanted a "home-like" atmosphere in the shelter. Homeless people 
wanted a supportive, compassionate and understanding staff in a 
shelter that created a sense of community - free from the stress of 
the streets. There was a common theme in the responses that becoming 
and being homeless was deeply traumatizing, and in order for homeless 
people to move forward with their lives, they felt the shelter must 
be a place to heal and nurture. 

Clean and Comprehensive Facilities
The third most common response (73 or 20%) to what the philosophy of 
the ideal shelter would be is that people wanted clean and 
comprehensive facilities. Responses included comments around 
maintaining healthy and clean facilities, and equally important, 
adequate facilities. Folks saw having enough clean sheets, towels, 
comfortable beds, storage, shower, and laundry facilities as a 
baseline philosophy for their ideal shelter.

Right to Shelter
The next most common response (57 or 16%), when we asked people what 
the philosophy of the ideal shelter would be, was that everyone has a 
right to shelter. Respondents who answered in this category felt that 
seeing shelter as a right should be a dominant theme, and as such, 
shelters should be accessible to all.

Well trained staff
As in other parts of this survey, people saw staff as an incredibly 
crucial component to the success of any shelter. An equal number of 
people (57 or 16%) felt that well trained staff with good attitudes 
would be a the underlying philosophy of their ideal shelter.

The following is a breakdown of responses to this question:

Philosophy of Ideal Shelter

Comprehensive services		158	44%
Home like atmosphere		 78	22%
Clean and comprehensive facilities	 73	20%
Everyone has a right to shelter	 57	16%
Well trained staff		 57	16%
Safe place off the streets		 46	13%
Understanding of all cultures	 44	12%
More private space		  25	  7%
Free from weapons and drugs	  23	  6%

less than 5% had these responses:

Separate space for sub-populations  19	  5%
Longer length of stay		   12	  3%
Flexible rules			   12	  3%
Help people help themselves	   12	  3%
Well organized			    7	  2%
Formerly homeless staff		    5	  1%
Screening who gets in		    3	  1%
Smaller shelters                              2         1%
Mandatory showers                         2         1%


"If there was enough space for everyone, the lottery system could be 
					40 year old African American male

People were asked how an individual would access their ideal shelter.
Survey responses indicated that people had very strong ideas on how 
individuals should access the shelter system. The responses were 
varied, and quite diverse, indicating that no one access system would 
work for everyone.

The most common response (189 or 48%) was that individuals would just 
show up at the shelter in order to access it. For homeless people, 
this is the most practical way to access shelter - not only those 
with mental health issues, but for others who, because they are 
homeless, have a difficult time navigating a complex access process.

Referral based on priority/need
The second most common response (162 or 41%) was referral based on 
need. Respondents mentioned populations getting priority such as 
disabled, elderly, women with children, youth, medical conditions, 
and working people. The idea here is that someone else would decide 
based on need.

The third and fourth most common responses was having a lottery - 
with a combined 108 individuals requesting some kind of improved 
lottery system. Clearly, individuals wanted to see the lottery system 
changed to ensure it is equal, fair and simplified. However, these 
individuals liked the inherent fairness of having a lottery, if 
operated correctly. 

Central Lottery for whole shelter system
The third most common response was a central lottery to access the 
entire system. This would mean one central lottery for all shelters 
as opposed to each shelter holding its own individual lottery.

Lottery for Each Shelter
The fourth most common response was for a lottery at each individual 
shelter. These individuals wanted the fairness of the lottery, but 
wanted to choose which shelter.

Separate shelters for different populations
Another common response was the idea that there would be separate 
shelters for sub-populations.  Sub-populations mentioned included 
people with disabilities, elderly people, people with mental 
illnesses, drug users/non-drug users, transgenders, and workers.

This is a list of answers on how people would access the ideal shelter.

Just show up or drop in			189		48%
Referral based on priority/need		162		41%
Central Lottery				 66		17%
Lottery for Each Shelter			 42		12%
Separate shelters for
different populations			 27		 7%

less than 5% had these responses:

Centralized intake			19
No favoritism/equal opportunity		19
More shelter space available		18
Transportation provided			12
More street outreach			 6
More flexible entrance hours		 7
Slide card system			 6
Opportunity to choose shelter		 1


"Help people live productive lives"
						38 year old female
People were asked what kinds of services would be available in an 
ideal shelter. People responded with multiple answers to this 
question. The clearest explanation of the predominant responses 
indicates strongly that homeless people know what they need.

Living Wage Job
Homeless people need living wage jobs (211 or 56%) as well as 
services to get them that job, such as help creating resumes, job 
listings, training, skills development and job placement and 

Health Care
People would like to have access to medical care (181 or 48%) on site 
in the form of either a medical clinic or mobile van. Also mentioned 
was having an RN available or on call. This indicates the great 
medical needs of homeless people, and their feeling of not getting 
sufficient primary care.

People want shelters to provide access to housing (141 or 38%) that 
is permanent, low income, and affordable (including people whose 
incomes are GA, SSI, SSDI/SSA, or working poor). Respondents felt 
housing lists should be available to everyone in the shelters, and 
also to people who do not consistently access the shelters - such as 
through drop-in services.

Mental Health Treatment
People want access to mental health treatment (130 or 35%). This 
included access to psychiatrist, counseling available for people in 
emergency crisis, and long term therapy and support. Since people 
have different needs for support, a wide variety of help should be 
made available.

Substance Abuse Treatment
A significant number of individuals felt that access to substance 
abuse services (116 or 31%) should be available while they were 
staying in the shelters.  More services should be available for those 
who want treatment including; NA and AA meetings, harm reduction 
groups, and access to treatment programs.

Comprehensive Case Management
People wanted case management (106 or 26%) that was comprehensive and 
included staff that was empathic, encouraging, and had the ability to 
truly listen to what people identified that they needed. Respondents 
wanted staff who could work with clients as a team to help them 
develop short and long term plans. Many responses indicated that case 
management would be client centered and directed; that staff would 
play interactive and responsive roles in realizing needs and goals 
the client has determined, with the case manager coordinating them. 
Referrals to services, as needed, would be made available through 
case management. Some felt after care should be available for those 
people not on case management. Money management and the ability to 
save up money to be used for housing and other necessities to exit 
the shelter are helpful.

Living wage Jobs & Training	211	56%
Medical Treatment		181	48%
Housing				141	38%
Mental Health Treatment		130	35%
Substance Abuse Treatment	116	31%
Case Management		106	26%
Hygiene				 84	22%
Food/ Nutrition			 69	18%
Peer Information Sharing		 44	12%

less than 5% had these responses:

Recreational Activities		24	6%
Transportation			22	6%
Spiritual				13	3%
Financial Counseling		12	3%
24 hour staff			11	3%
Telephone			11	3%
Resource Information		10	3%
Legal Assistance	 		 8	2%
Disabled Services	 		 6	2%
Space for Pets	 		 6	2%
Senior Services	 		 4	1%
Child-care	 		 4	1%
Volunteer Programs	 	 3	1%
Bilingual Services	 		 2	1%
After Care	 		 1 	0.27%

Physical Environment

"We are not animals on display"
					38 year old white female

Respondents were asked what the physical environment of their ideal 
shelter would be like.  The majority of responses reflect a clear 
message - they wanted separate spaces and a shelter that is both 
comfortable and hygienic.

More and separate spaces
The most common response (261 respondents) to this question was that 
shelters should have both more space, and separate spaces for a 
variety of uses.  This included designating space for people with 
special needs. Other spaces requested were quiet spaces, designated 
smoking areas, television room, and dining. In addition, it was 
requested by some that there be separate spaces for detox, families, 
seniors, men and women. Some individuals also requested counseling 
offices, lockers and secure storage.

"Women have privacy rights, and freedom from sexual harassment by law."
					53 year old women of mixed race

Hygienic Environment
The second most common ideal physical attribute (241 respondents) was 
a hygienic shelter. Individuals responded that the shelter should be 
clean, and some even felt that there be mandatory showers when 
individuals entered the shelter. In addition, some individuals 
requested laundry facilities and clean clothes as a way to achieve 
this, as well as having enough clean shower and bathroom facilities. 
In sum, people want and deserve an environment that is free of 
disease and filth.

Comfortable Shelters
The third most common response to was that shelters be comfortable. 
People felt this would allow for more comfortable sleep and rest.

The following is a full list of the number and percent of responses 
to what the physical environment would be like in an ideal shelter.

Separate space		261	68%
Hygienic and clean	241	63%
Comfortable		136	36%
Cheerful Décor		 77	20%
Exercise/recreation	 25	 7%
Library available		 22	 6%
More beds		 22	 6%

less than 5% had these responses:

Safe place		 13	 3%
Sufficient furniture	 12	 3%
Comprehensive services	 12	 3%
Better Ventilation	  9	 2%
Less institutionalized	  8	 2%


"To exit homelessness, people need homes. "
					36 year old African American Male

Individuals were asked how shelter residents would exit shelters and 
homelessness in their ideal shelter. The frank responses in this 
section strongly indicate that homeless people know exactly what it 
would take to end homelessness. In sum, they needed affordable 
housing and income the most, as well as other kinds of services for 
some individuals.

Permanent Affordable Housing
The most common response by far was the need for permanent affordable 
housing to be available.  Two hundred and twenty-nine respondents 
(56%) identified this as their primary necessity.  Many respondents 
defined affordable as 30% or less of a person's income - indicating 
that housing must be affordable to even the poorest residents.

"Now there is a rotating door. Have people sign up for Section 8 
housing as soon as they get into the shelter. I thought this was 
supposed to be a place to help you."
					45 year old white female

"Need HUD housing, not slum hotels. They are roach infested, rat run 
hotels that the city knows about."
					55 year old African American male

Living Wage Jobs
The second critical necessity that individuals needed in order to 
exit homelessness was living wage jobs. 225 respondents indicated 
living wage jobs or training, education and placement as a 
prerequisite to exiting homelessness. 

There were several other items people viewed as necessary to exit 
homelessness, however these numbers drop significantly. These 
included the need for supportive housing (63 respondents), and 
transitional housing (51 respondents). Another important need 
identified was money management services, with 33 seeing this as a 
necessity before they could exit homelessness. Mental health 
treatment (37 respondents) and substance abuse treatment (62) were 
also seen as important.

Such results indicate that, while many respondents are in need of 
support services to assist them in transitioning from homelessness, 
their primary necessity is simply an affordable place to live and a 

The following is a list of numbers and percents of responses to what 
homeless respondents would need in order exit homelessness. 

Housing				238	63%
Living wage jobs			225	60%
Supportive Housing		 63	23%
Substance Abuse Treatment	 62	17%
Referrals and linkages		 53	14%
Transitional Housing		 51	14%
Mental Health Treatment		 37	 10%
Money Management		 33	 9%

less than 5% had these responses:

Longer Shelter Stays			11	 3%
Information on services			 7	 2%
Help become part of broader community	 7	 2%
Aftercare				 6	 2%
Self Help				 6	 2%
Relocation Assistance			 6	 2%
Case Management			 6	 2%
Shorter stays				 4	 1%
Family reunification			 3	 1%
Medical assistance			 2	 1%
Phone and voicemail			 2	 1%
Home ownership				 1	 0.27%

Embracing Culture

"The system is racist, not because of the color of out skin, but 
because we are homeless."
			50 year old African American male

"Respect for different cultures should be a requirement."
			23 year old White / Native American / Japanese male

Learn not to be prejudiced. Ignorance breeds prejudice. Teach about 
different cultures."
			50 year old African American female

Respondents were asked how people's different cultures should be 
respected within the shelter system. In general, respondents felt 
there should be respect for all cultures and that racism, 
discrimination and favoratism should not be tolerated. This section 
differed from other parts of the survey in that elsewhere there was a 
focus mainly on the staff as problematic. In this question, it became 
clear that both staff and clients could benefit from work cultural 
competency. Many suggestions included training and various vehicles 
of communication, and that such activities would promote 
understanding and a sense of community in the shelters.

Respect for Different Cultures
175 respondents or 50% responded that there should be a general 
respect for people's various cultures. Most respondents believe 
different cultures should be honored, promoted and encouraged by both 
staff and clients. 

Staff Should Speak Multiple Languages
116, or 33% felt that staff persons should speak the languages of 
those that they served, or that they should have translation services 
available. Given the diversity of San Francisco, this is hardly a 
surprising need.

Diverse Staff
91 or 26% felt that a diverse staff is important. Some answering this 
way said that this diverse staff should be sensitive, others said 
that they should encourage openness, and others said that a more 
diverse staff may succeed in engaging those who otherwise might not 
be reached.

Cultural Activities
20% of respondents recognized the value of cultural activities in 
expressing one's culture as well as promoting cross-cultural 
understanding.  71 people responded that there should be activities 
such as art, entertainment, ethnic food, presentations, films and 
books (and these in languages other than English).

The numbers and percents of responses to how people's cultures could 
be respected was as follows:

Respect for Different Cultures		176	50%
Staff should speak multiple languages	116	33%
Diverse Staff				 91	26%
Cultural Activities			 71	20%
Information/Training in Multiple Languages	 62	18%
No Racism, Discrimination, Racial Slurs, etc. 37	11%
Diversity Training of Staff and Clients	 36	10%
Everyone Treated Equal			 36	10%
Cultural Support Groups			 24	 7%

less than 5% had these responses:

Honor Religious Desires			  9	 3%
Separate Spaces for sub-populations	  7	 2%
Self-Governing				  6	 2%
Not Necessary				  5	 1%
Fire/Don't Hire Staff Who Discriminate	  5	 1%
Immigration Services			  2	 1%
Teach Other Languages			  2	 1%
Employ Residents				  1	  0.28%
Less Institutional				  1	  0.28%
No Segregation				  1	  0.28%
Respect of Confidentiality		  1	  0.28%

Seniors and People with Disabilities

"If you have a medical condition and have to go to the hospital, you 
shouldn't lose your bed."
					60 year old African American female

"Make allowances for people with disabilities, be able to bend rules 
such as length of stay."
					42 year old African American male

Many respondents commented that seniors and people with disabilities 
should not even be in shelters. Many commented that they should be in 
permanent housing or long-term shelters in the interim. If they are 
in the general shelters, many felt they should have priority in the 
lottery and special areas within the shelters. Although there were a 
few respondents who felt that neither seniors nor those with 
disability should get any special treatment, the vast majority showed 
great compassion for those with special needs. It is important that 
there is some consideration for this population, based on the fact 
that the elderly population is a considerable part of the city's 
population and a rapidly growing segment of the general population as 
a whole.

Staff Training
The most common response be far, was the need for staff training. 
135, or 38% responded that the staff should have special training on 
how to work with seniors and people with disabilities, or be 
qualified to work with this population. Some also mentioned that 
staff should be trained on issues relevant to veterans, some of whom 
are seniors and/or have disabilities.  Some who responded this way 
also suggested that the staff be trained in mental health issues for 
this population. 

Separate Shelter for Seniors
113, or 32% suggested that there should be separate shelters for 
senior citizens. Some who responded this way brought up issues of 
safety, of comfort, and of disrespect for elders by younger clients. 
Generally, there is understanding that seniors have different needs 
than the general population.

Separate Shelter for People with Disabilities
100 respondents or 28%, responded that there should be separate 
shelters for those with disabilities. Reasons for this response were 
often due to accessibility issues, or to concerns that they get the 
services they need.

Physical Accessibility
Many were concerned about the compliance with the ADA.  82 
respondents, or 23% expressed concern in the general area of 
accessibility.  There were concerns that there is not full access to 
the existing facilities, that the showers, toilets etc. are not 

Medical Assistance
69, or 20% of the respondents felt that a wide range of medical 
services should be available on site for seniors and people with 
disabilities.  Some of the specific issues raised were refrigerated 
medication storage; assistance getting to medical appointments; 
services such as rehabilitation, medical assistance, first aid, and 
speech therapy offered on-site; and special supplies available, such 
as Depends.

The following is a list of how respondents thought seniors and people 
with disabilities should be served by the shelter system:

Staff Qualified/Trained on Issues			135	38%
Separate Shelter for Seniors			113	32%
Separate Shelter for People with Disabilities	100	28%
Physical Accessibility				 82	23%
Medical Assistance				 69	20%
24-Hour Advise Nurse				 58	17%
Flexible Hours and Policies for Seniors/PWD	 55	16%
Priority Placement of People with Special Needs	 51	15%
Special Diet					 50	14%
Support Services					 38	11%
Multi-Service with Separate Spaces		 33	09%
Telephone Service				 19	05%

less than 5% had these responses:

Permanent Housing				15	04%
Transportation Assistance				14	04%
Email/Voicemail Service				11	03%
Safety Monitoring				11	03%
Equal (not special) Treatment			 8	02%
Clear Rules					 1	0.28%
Self Help					 1	0.28%
Screening Before Entry				 1	0.28%

A big warm thank you to all of those who made this study possible:

Survey Takers:

Able Zerfiel
Miguel Cuevas
Eric Enriques
Eduardo Palomo
Robert Williams
Mariana Viturro
Bridgette Peltekof
M.C. Ettinger
Delphine Brody
John Wilson
chance martin
Sara Gorman
Wendy Phillips
Arnette Watson
Dan Mcuew
Mel Beetle
James LaPoint
L.S. Wilson
Allison Lum
Robert (Bob) Williams
Jennifer Friedenbach
Ron Rucker
Lance Bartels
Miguel Carrera
Nancy Esteva
Scott Clark
Whirlwind Dreamer
John Melone
Thomas Batdorf
Kathleen Gray
Anthony Camel
Adam Arms
Mara Raider
Angelique Gonzales
Mary Kerles
Cheryl Johnson
Rodd Walton
Dennis Deasy
Cecilia Valentine
Benjamin Johnson


chance martin
Allison Lum
Jennifer Friedenbach
Wendy Phillips
Ceclia Valentine
John Malone
Mark Huelskotter
Mara Raider

Thanks to our volunteer translators:

Mariana Viturro
Angelique Gonzales
Tan Chow
Miguel Cuevas
Angela Chu

And our deepest appreciation to all the homeless people we surveyed,
and everyone else who helped make this effort possible.

8000+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
INFO & to join/leave list - Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
vox: (415) 346.3740
Fax: (415) 775.5639