Q&A With Donna Robinson, PhD

Donna Robinson, the CEO/President and Founder of House of Divine Mercy, spent time last week answering some of our questions in advance of the November 8 Second Sunday roundtable on Housing During COVID-19. (Meeting details here.)

What is an emergency shelter? The technical definition of an emergency shelter is a temporary place of shelter for 30 day up to a year. Typically, this can be a winter shelter running from November/December to March. There are also year round shelters. Most emergency shelters are overnight only ending from about 6:00p to 8:00a.  This varies by location. An emergency shelter will provide a place to sleep whether on a cot and sleeping pad, breakfast and dinner. Many are designated for single men, women, families or just women with children. Some shelters provide case management, but all will refer out for services.  It is a place to receive support while locating stable housing.  It is not a long-term solution.  The length of stay and services provided varies from one provider to the next.

What is your percentage of success in getting people into homes and living independently? Our shelter is winter only. About 25% of our residents discharge into a stable permanent living situation. Most of our families are transitioned into longer termed shelters as their needs continue before our service period. At least 75% of our residents discharge to other living situations whether with the county, family, friends or living independently. The remaining 25% may be terminated unsuccessfully from our program or they discharge without sharing their living plan. 

Do you help people find jobs or access education or vocational training? Yes, we will help prepare resumes, provide job leads, help with childcare, pay to classes and make referrals for services to gain education or training. This is done on a small scale as funds and time permits.

How do you work with people with mental health and/or addiction disorders? Because our shelter has children, we take people with mental health disorders and addictions on a case by case basis. They must be stable, clean/sober. and compliant with mental health plan. The safety of the children come first, so our threshold for acceptance is different from that of a shelter for singles.

How do you work with families who have children that need to be in school and have some sense of predictability?  We have children in our shelter and we assist them with their homework and provide internet access and computers to complete homework or virtual learning. We coordinate with the schools to arrange bus transportation from our location. We help get children registered for school by providing a local address and we remain in contact with the school to know how to support the family.

What resources do you recommend? Call 311 for county resources.  You can also go to your local DHHS office. Finally, see the resource page http://houseofdivineguidance.org/county-resources.html