May 31, 2008

The Sacramento Homeless Connect [Part 1 of 3]

The Sacramento Homeless Connect, an event held at Cal Expo in the Winter Shelter on May 31, between 10am and 3pm, meant as a valuable opportunity to give homeless and poor people information about services that can help them, was seriously marred by ineptitude in how it was organized.

Attendees to the event were left to spend most of their time waiting on a parking lot to get in. All of this time could have, should have, been used filling people's minds with information they could use. Instead, the homeless and other poor people were left to spend hours biding their time, drinking free bottles of Snapple and "Salvation Army"-branded water.

The waiting time of one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours could have been greatly lessened had the organizers tended to their most fundamental responsibilities: Anticipating visitors' experience and seeking to avoid bottlenecks and shortages.

The organizers should have looked at the problems of similar events to avoid others' mistakes. From what I understand very similar events have been held rather recently in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Portland.

Any able planner for an event such as this would have measured the time requirements to assure that attendees have as excellent and valuable experience as is possible. The average time it takes to interview each person wanting entry to the event should have been measured. The flow of visitors to the event should have been anticipated. While I am told there were possibly double the number of people attending than was anticipated, it was known that most would arrive in the late morning when the event started. Planners should have been aware that a serious bottleneck would occur, even with a small crowd.

There are many things the organizers could have done to make the event more successful at achieving it ends:

  • They can have pared the length of the intake/triage interview that was used before attendees gained entry.
  • They can have used volunteers who were waiting and "twittling their thumbs" [in the words of one volunteer] in the venue to beef up the staff doing the entry tasks.
  • Many of the kiosks/stations in the Winter Shelter where the event was held can have been made mobile by going out to the parking lot to do out-reach work or distribute literature.
The event was "hosted by the Ending Chronic Homelessness Intitiative" which is "co-chaired by [Sacramento] Mayor Heather Fargo and Supervisor Roger Dickinson." Tim Brown was the prime onsite organizer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well I hope you take part in the planning process this year.