Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter-shelter funds, the mission, the coming storm and inefficiency

Funnelling people to motel rooms as the modus operandi of the winter shelter effort this year needs to be refined. From indicators last night and this morning, an overabundance of motel vouchers have been distributed to "the wrong" people.

Last night, there were ten or twelve empty beds in the Union Gospel Mission dorm for guests, which can, and usually does, accommodate sixty men.

Why were there only 48 or 50 men in the dorm instead of the usual sixty?

Well, let's back up. There are several factors at play that explain crowding at the dorm that it is helpful to understand. The mission guests, as a crowd, have their own monthly and seasonal rhythms.

On about the first day of a month a great many of the solo men in Homeless World get checks. Most of those in this subset of the guys use the majority of their money on alcohol, cigarettes, crystal meth and/or marijuana with a lesser amount of their funds going toward motel stays.

Of course, each guy is unique, and there are varietions on this theme, but, generally, the guys who get checks and have habits (which can include or be other addictions, such as porn, gambling, being with women, being with men, eating at expensive restaurants, et al) go through their cash very fast. By midmonth, the "money on the street" has pretty much all been spend.

What this means, then, is that beds at the mission are much much more available toward the beginning of a month than near the end of a month. [Because guys are staying on the street or in motels or just elsewhere to sip, sniff and trip.] This is well known to the mission staff, guys who regularly stay at the mission, the Bannon Street Irregulars and the police and emergency services.

Bad-weather conditions play a part in mission crowding, though, too. If it's cold or wet or a storm is in the offing, that brings into the dorm the Bannon Street Irregulars or others who had been staying outside.

So NOW, though it's early in the month, the mission should be crowded. A storm is brewing. The fact that an amazing ten or twelve dorm beds were empty is an indicator of a lot of guys from the near-the-mission crowd having gotten motel vouchers.

It is VERY apparent that the winter shelter effort is being very inefficient.

Were guys out with one-day motel-stay vouchers, the inefficiency would be minor. But from what I hear, guys are getting one-week or thirty-day motel stays and some are getting rooms all to themselves.

AND, just as "bad," the winter-shelter effort isn't taking people in off the streets.  That is, it ISN'T taking homeless people who WOULD HAVE BEEN WET AND COLD and making them dry and warm.  It appears just to be moving people from the dry, warm mission shelter to dry and warm motel rooms that the winter-shelter fund [which comes from the city, county and private donations of some sort] pays for.  In other words ― allow me to be quite clear ― winter-shelter money is being wasted to some non-trivial extent.

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