If You Give a Feast, Invite the Poor: Inviting the Homeless to the Planning Table
Homeless individuals experience many barriers to accessing and using needed services. However, homeless clients are often excluded from institutional efforts to address their needs. While designing services for the homeless is good, the central argument of this dissertation is that designing services with the homeless is better because it decreases barriers to service use and more effectively addresses the needs of the homeless community. Through an embedded case study conducted in three phases, this dissertation investigated one organization, Lighthouse, engaged in the process of planning a new emergency shelter for the homeless in the face of changing local socio-political priorities. A focus of this study was on how Lighthouse attended to one of their key stakeholder groups during this planning process—the homeless. In the first phase, I examined factors facilitating a successful collaboration between Lighthouse, a nonprofit homeless service provider, and the city where the organization is located. Collaboration resulted in the establishment of legally protected zones for homeless services, enabling Lighthouse to expand its emergency shelter. In the second phase, I compared service provider and service user priorities for emergency shelter to illuminate opportunities for collaboration between these different stakeholder groups. Finally, serving as a change agent, I proposed to Lighthouse several initiatives intended to promote participation of homeless clients during the planning stages of their new emergency shelter. As a result of these efforts, I highlight four factors that facilitate government-nonprofit and service provider-user collaborations. In addition, I outline organizational factors that facilitate and constrain collaboration between service providers and users. Findings from this work suggest translational guidelines for individuals and organizations interested in successfully involving marginalized groups in local planning and policy processes.