guest advisory council
The Guest Advisory Council has become a valued resource for People Serving People staff to learn from and alongside our guests and residents. It’s safe to say, the feeling is mutual.
On a recent Friday afternoon, emergency shelter guests, supportive housing residents, and staff gathered at People Serving People to discuss concerns and brainstorm ideas about safe infant bathing options, dress code policies, and opportunities for teens.
These are just some of the topics the Guest Advisory Council (GAC) addresses to make People Serving People a better place in which children and families in crisis can safely transition to stability.
The GAC was formed in March 2017 during our process to become a trauma responsive organization. The organizational self-assessment we conducted highlighted the need to offer more opportunities for guests to provide advice and feedback on matters impacting their experience here. The GAC has helped us sustain and evaluate our ongoing efforts to be trauma responsive.
In the early GAC meetings, the group created a participation agreement for staff and guests who join the council. The agreement outlines that anyone is eligible to attend and all feedback—whether positive or constructive— is welcome. Participants agree to respect each other’s viewpoints, ideas, and feedback; maintain confidentiality; and volunteer at “Adopt-a-Block” clean-up days.
The GAC now meets every other Friday. Council members establish the biweekly agenda and are encouraged to bring new business and invite additional members to each meeting. While the attendance at GAC meetings varies due to schedule conflicts and our highly mobile shelter population,
“I wanted my voice to be heard….to share my thoughts and concerns,” said Daniell, a shelter guest.
As supportive housing resident Ali’Cia put it, “I love that it’s an actual community where I feel like I belong. Diversity actually stands for something. I do it because I’m being heard. I see major changes at People Serving People.”
In the short time that the GAC has existed, they have helped drive changes throughout People Serving People.
“I love that it’s an actual community where I feel like I belong. Diversity actually stands for something. I do it because I’m being heard.”
The GAC now sees policies and procedures when they are being considered and is asked for input. It’s created a level playing field, one that’s empowering and inclusive, and allows our guests to help drive and shape what we do.
The GAC has identified hidden needs among our shelter guests and supportive housing residents.
Dietary and allergy concerns raised by GAC members led us to update the electronic screens in the dining hall to include up-to-date menus and allergy information. We also worked with the GAC to expand the list of healthy food options guests can keep in their rooms. The laundry process has become more equitable, accessible with additional hours, and easier for staff to oversee thanks to feedback from the GAC.
GAC members have also shared their stories and experiences in the community. The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless led a “self-advocacy” training for GAC members. They used their voices to share their stories at Homeless Day on the Hill and other advocacy events.
GAC members have also sought out opportunities to get more involved in creating a sense of community within People Serving People. They have helped plan and lead Family Friday Fun night activities, including a graduation-themed event in June and back-to-school event in August. As the GAC members have described it, these events are “for us, by us.”
Over the course of its tenure, the GAC has become a valued resource for People Serving People staff to learn from and alongside our guests and residents. It’s safe to say, the feeling is mutual.
As Ali’Cia said, “Seeing that those who are employed here care enough to have something like this for people staying here— how can we not be appreciative?”