Homeless Service Providers Embracing Innovation in Face of Pandemic

Utah Foundation has released the next installment in its Homelessness Series. Widening the Doors of Hope: Addressing Coronavirus-Related Challenges Among Homeless Service Providers explores the coping strategies and innovations that providers are adopting to withstand the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the findings of the report:

  *   More than six months into the pandemic, it is clear that homeless service providers in Salt Lake County are staying agile and exploring opportunities to improve their operations and services in the community.
  *   A majority of providers are reporting that they are keeping their doors open, but doing so through health safety protocols and hybrid forms blending in-person with phone/online services.
  *   The most effective management-related mitigation strategies include participating in periodic Salt Lake County COVID-19 coordination calls, creating internal pandemic response teams, and collaborative efforts with other cross-sector agencies.
  *   The most effective staff-focused mitigation strategies are working remotely and implementing health safety protocols. All providers indicated that they had adopted remote working policies, and four out of five providers found these remote work policies very effective.
  *   The most effective client-centered mitigation strategies are related to making changes to client programming and (as with staff-focused strategies) implementing health safety protocols.
  *   Three-quarters of the survey respondents indicated that the pandemic had forced them to engage in innovative practices in order to cope and withstand the effects of the pandemic.
  *   In terms of administrative innovations, these include modifying the intake process from serving a single client at a time to grouping clients into cohorts, ensuring that they meet health safety protocols and then transitioning them together into receiving services.
  *   In terms of technological innovations, many providers have employed telehealth and video conferencing.

“While homeless service providers face significant pandemic-related challenges, it is clear that they are finding workarounds that may benefit them even after the current crisis has passed,” Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said.

Special thanks to the Richard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and Salt Lake County for providing project-based support for the homelessness series.

Read the report on Utah Foundation’s website.