One Voice: PRS Students host New Hampshire/Vermont Conference on Homelessness

 Four Dartmouth students working in the Policy Research Shop convened a day-long conference, "One Voice: A Conference and Discussion on Homeless Shelters in New Hampshire and Vermont," for more than two dozen homeless shelter executive directors and state officials from New Hampshire and Vermont on Monday, May 24, 2010. The PRS students—Margaret Goldstein '10, Nickolas Barber '10, Kelsey Clark '11 and Nina Brekelmans '12—shared their analysis of the ways in which homeless shelters care for their guests in New Hampshire and Vermont based on the research they had conducted during the previous six months.


Kelsey Clark '11 presents research findings as Nina Brekelmans '12 and Nick Barber '10 look on.

The Policy Research Shop is a program that provides valuable, non-partisan research to policymakers on critical issues facing New Hampshire and Vermont. PRS students presented their findings on how homeless individuals are cared for in the two states and helped craft guidelines for coordination and best practices among homeless shelters.




Maggie Goldstein '10 presents research findings in success measurement.

Three of the students on the team, Margaret Goldstein, Nickolas Barber and Nina Brekelmans, have been working on the project since late October of 2009, while the final team member, Kelsey Clark, came on board in January. The conference was entirely student-run, said Professor Ronald G. Shaiko, Senior Fellow and Associate Director of Curricular and Research Programs at the Rockefeller Center and faculty mentor for the project. For the conference, the students produced a report of their findings. See the Report and related documents included at the end of this article.

"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."

"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 the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, also gave a public lecture later in the afternoon. His speech was 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.




Executive directors discuss homeless issues in breakout sessions.

The Policy Research Shop took on the project at the request of Sara Kobylenski, Executive Director at the Upper Valley Haven, a homeless shelter in White River Junction, Vermont. The task was to develop a comprehensive 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. At the conclusion of the conference, Kobylenski expressed her gratitude to the PRS team members, "The conference exceeded my highest expectations. Thank you for your great efforts."

Materials developed as part of the conference:

Dartmouth Press Release