Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Boston to turn anyway anyone in need

Boston Pine Street Inn Case Study

Problem Statement: Wanting to keep the organization’s mission in mind, Lyndia
Downie wanted to balance the service of both the chronically and short term
homeless. Even with public funding for shelter services declining, she didn’t
want to turn anyway anyone in need of help.

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Hypothesis 1: It might be that Boston Pine Street Inn’s organizational
structure was not structured enough.

Downie had known that there were
some members on the Board and staff who questioned the changes she had brought
to Pine Street. With the closing of the nurse-run clinic, cutting the clothing
program out, and actively urging newcomers and old timers to find alternatives
housing and get themselves out of the shelters; all of these were collectively
taking Pine Street farther and farther away from its roots that it had been
founded on.

When the organization was first
founded in 1968, Pine Street’s distinctive and unstinting commitment to
providing shelter with no conditions, no judgment and no strings attached was
always enforced by its first director, Paul Sullivan. In its earliest days,
Pine Street provided guests with a cot and coffee, and Sullivan would often
hand out cigarettes as well. Sullivan had set a tone right from the beginning.

In the article of “The Social
Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”, it states that
“A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense, may have
artificial responsibilities, but “business” as a whole cannot be said
to have responsibilities, even in this vague sense. The first step toward
clarity in examining the doctrine of the social responsibility of business is
to ask precisely what implies for whom (Friedman, 1970).” Downie’s efforts
towards trying to change the way Pine Street was trying to things from within,
implies to Social Responsibility. By actively trying to encourage guests to try
and seek housing elsewhere, it was going to help them get them on their feet.
If encouragement wasn’t there, it would be a disservice to them and Pine

Hypothesis 2: It might be that Boston Pine Street Inn housing the
chronically homeless for a longer period of time than need be, which caused
Pine Street Inn to use more services helping them to sustain a functioning

Pine Street prided itself on turning
no one way. They always made room, even when all the beds were full. Some 12,000-homeless
people were served at Pine Street each year. They were called guests and as
their policy stated they were treated with respect and dignity. Pine Street had
remained the place of last resort for anyone who, through some combination of
physical or mental illness, disability, addiction, misfortune, social
isolation, and poverty, had run out of options. Over the years, Pine Street
grew by adding meals provided by local church volunteers, and an onsite clinic.

Downie had estimated that, all told,
the chronic population hovered at about 500, and occupied about 80 percent of
Pine Street’s beds at night. For the 31 percent still there after the tenth
day, however, Pine Street began a concerted push, assigning a case manager to
work with each person on an exit plan. According to data, the chronically
homeless took up 49% of the beds at night; and that was for more than 140 days
or more. Nearly half of the budget, or 46%, funded straight-up emergency
shelter beds. With providing services to this group, aimed at helping them to
move on, Pine Street also, for the first time, began to do things to actively
discourage people from settling in. They had adapted the practice of assigning
longer term shelter stayers a regular bed, unless they were in the transitional
shelter program and actively working on an exit plan.

With the data that was collected and
put into the graphs, Downie and her team were astounded. As stated in the
article “Why Everyone Needs Analytical Skills”, “Decisions in
businesses and organizations can be based on a wide variety of factors,
including personal experience, intuition, testing, or analytics and data
(Davenport & Kim, 2013).” Downie had the numbers, so she knew that
there needed to be changes made within Pine Street to help move the chronically

Hypothesis 3: It might be that there was decline in revenue and the
programs that Pine Street were funding, were becoming a financial constraint.

In 2004, Pine street’s revenue
dropped from $29.6 to 26.9 million. Lyndia Downie and the board of directors
commissioned two studies to help make them make $1 million in immediate budget
cuts. One study would analyze the costs and benefits of the different Pine
Street programs; the others would analyze the length of stay for each newcomer
to the shelter.

The nursing clinic was included
onsite at the Pine Street Inn. It had begun in 1972 as a volunteer operation
that provided primary care tailored to the homeless population. The homeless
had often come in with swollen feet and legs, sores, frostbite, scabies, lice,
and tuberculosis. The nursing clinic was ineligible for Medicaid funding
because it was ran by nurses rather than doctors. At the end of the day, a
decision was made that the Boston Health Care for the Homeless would run the clinic,
saving the Pine Street Inn close to $1 million dollars per year.

Pine Street was spending $300,000 a
year soliciting clothing donations, picking them up, sorting through them, and
dispensing them at the shelter. The guests were allowed to sort and look
through them as often as needed. Downie had stated that “We’d done it for
years. Guests liked it. Staff liked it. But there was no real value-added in
terms of helping people move on with their lives.” She had suggested that
Pine Street buy washers and dryers and suggest to guests that they wash their
clothes. She also suggested a partnership with Goodwill to provide clothing on
a contract basis. The Board had agreed with her ideas.

As stated in the six-hat theory, a
green hat is known to be creative. Downie had her green hat on when it came to
coming up with solutions when Pine street was faced with lack of funds. She had
come up with both ideas for different solutions for the clothing program and
the nursing clinic. She was able to level out the financials with both programs
while maintaining a long-term solution that would benefit both the clinic and
its guests.


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