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Q26. Why do you call the people you serve your "guests"?

Updated: May 23, 2022

This is a question from our Q&A series connected by Infotech.

We call the people we serve guests for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it emphasizes the level of courtesy and respect we expect our team to extend to those we serve. Like elsewhere in the service industry, our guests receive a level of hospitality we are proud of, from the way they are treated to the quality of services we can offer.

Second, the traditional term used in the homeless services world - client - is somewhat disempowering. At its root, being a “client” implies dependency, and we aim for the opposite. We expect people will do everything in their power to find permanent housing while staying with us, and we look forward to working with them on that process. Homeless people are the experts in their own lives, and we are the experts in navigating a complicated world of setbacks, supports, and services. At the end of the day, we are ready and willing to do everything in our power to help someone get off the street, but it is a cooperative process.

Finally, emergency shelters are only effective in ending homelessness if they are well run, professional, and built around a relentless focus on housing. That is, they are a part of the process of ending homelessness - they are not a destination. Working with people as guests in our shelter conveys a more temporary relationship than if we were to call them residents, which carries a permanent connotation.

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