Rockefeller Center Students to Host New Hampshire / Vermont Conference on Homelessness


Dartmouth students working in the Policy Research Shop at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences will share their analysis of the ways in which homeless shelters care for their guests in New Hampshire and Vermont at a conference on the issue.

More than two dozen homeless shelter executive directors along with state officials from both states will be participating in “One Voice: A Conference and Discussion on Homeless Shelters in New Hampshire and Vermont” which starts on Monday, May 24.

The Policy Research Shop is a program that provides valuable, non-partisan research to legislators on critical issues facing each state. PRS students will present their findings on how homeless individuals are cared for in the two states and help craft guidelines for coordination and best practices among homeless shelters.

Most of the students on the team  Margaret -- Goldstein ’10, Nickolas Barber ’10 and Nina Brekelmans ’12 -- have been working on the project since November while another member -- Kelsey Clark ’11 -- came on board in January. The conference is entirely student-run, said Professor Ronald G. Shaiko, senior fellow, associate director of curricular and research programs at the Rockefeller Center, and faculty mentor for the project.

“This project provides a thorough, honest, and objective perspective on the homeless shelter system in New Hampshire and Vermont,” said Goldstein. “Our goal is to provide information and feedback in order to make this system as strong as it can be. These shelters are doing incredibly important work for homeless individuals; we believe that they can do even more if they collaborate, and we are hoping to be a part of that process.”

The Policy Research Shop took on the project at the request of representatives from the Upper Valley Haven, a homeless shelter in White River Junction, Vt. The task was to develop a complete analysis of standards and best practices for the two states in order to improve the system as a whole. The students collected data through interviews with shelter directors and state representatives, homeless shelter records, and on-site visits.

“By having improved guidelines and awareness of practices at homeless shelters, directors will be able to improve the outcome of guests,” Goldstein said. “If the shelters improve, guests will be more likely to gain and maintain independence after they move on from shelter life. Improved shelter services will decrease the number of homeless persons state-wide.”

The lunchtime speaker for the conference, James O’Connell, MD, president of Boston Heath Care for the Homeless, is also giving a public talk at 4:30 p.m. in 3 Rockefeller Hall. His speech is called “Dispatches from the Streets: Lessons Learned During 25 Years of Caring for Boston’s Rough Sleepers.”

The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program now serves more than 11,000 homeless persons each year in two hospital-based clinics and over 80 shelters and outreach sites in Boston. In 1993, O’Connell founded BHCHP’s medical respite program which has 104 beds dedicated to acute, sub-acute, peri-operative, rehabilitative, recuperative, and palliative end-of-life care for homeless men and women who would otherwise require costly acute care hospitalizations.

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Latarsha Gatlin