One complaint frequently heard among people who are homeless is that shelters have too many rules. As one who is terrible at remembering a lot of rules (I’m a complete failure at Bridge), I can appreciate that rules can be onerous, and even patronizing. But shelter operators have to ensure some order and we need to set some ground rules to ensure everyone can have as positive an experience as possible.
When I first started at PATH Achieve Glendale (our previous incarnation), there were a series of five framed posters mounted about 8 feet from the floor, by the kitchen serving window. Tiny print filled each of the 18×24 sheets. They were The Rules, required by our government funders. And they were really pretty useless. No one could read them from that distance, and they were written in the stilted language of bureaucrats who want to be sure they cover every last eventuality. Also, they were in the contract that each client had to sign.
A fews later, when we moved, as Ascencia, to our new building on Tyburn Street, I decided we needed something a little simpler. We still needed guidelines to ensure accountability, and we wanted to be sure everyone coming into our shelter program understood there are some expectations for behavior. But we didn’t need to beat them over the head with it. In coming up with this summary, I thought about the Rotary 4-way test, which is meant to promote ethical business conduct, and that elegant acronym, KISS [Keep It Simple, Stupid]. I also thought about the kinds of issues we had with clients over the years. For the most part, any problem we had to address usually came down to a matter of people (be it staff or clients) not feeling respected, not behaving safely or not helping out. Our shelter does not have a lot of funding, so we have just one person on shift most nights. This means we have to depend on our clients to behave like responsible adults and it is important that everyone has an investment in keeping the shelter safe, clean and friendly.
These days, our clients see this, at the desk where they sign in:
And really, aren’t these the rules we all need?
Thanks for reading!