[Hpn] Shelter survey report: SHUT OUT... part 3

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Sun, 24 Sep 2000 16:39:16 -0700

continued from part 2


"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%

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