HOWTO: Answer the phone
status: in process;
The phone at Pear Blossom Place is the 24/7 coordinated entry hotline for Thurston county. Here’s advice for answering.
Determine who is calling.
- Families looking for shelter
- Single individuals looking for shelter
- People looking for a staff person
- A domestic violence survivor fleeing and looking for shelter
- Families calling looking for rental assistance, support
- Law enforcement, social workers, hospital staff calling on behalf of someone looking for shelter
Ask clarifying questions.
- Do you have children?
- Have you been to our agency before?
- Where are you located?
- Do you need shelter tonight?
We want to make sure that we support the caller, understand their needs, and give meaningful and helpful referrals. (I have admittedly made useless referrals to Aberdeen—it’s a shelter for women and children, but I often forget and refer families with males.)
When we don’t have shelter space, be creative.
- Have you gone into the Family Support Center office?
- Do you have anywhere else you can stay tonight?
- Safe parking lots include WalMart, churches, SafeWay, etc.
Refer to coordinated entry the following morning.
In Thurston County, the Family Support Center runs coordinated entry for families with children and expectant parents. We also work with a small group of single adults in special circumstances.
Three different agencies provide coordinated entry for singles, families, and youth:
- Interfaith Works/Sidewalk (single men and women)
- 1139 5th Ave SE; Olympia
- Family Support Center (families with children, expecting parents)
- 201 Capital Way; Olympia
- Community Youth Services (youth up to 24 years of age)
- 711 State Ave NE; Olympia
Protect client confientiality.
Do not disclose if someone is (or is not) staying in shelter.
- “I can neither confirm nor deny…”
- “Do you have another way to get ahold of them?”
- “I can take a message and leave it on our community board.”
- “I can take your contact information and post it on our community board.”
Remind clients in shelter and folks calling in that our services are confidential.
Again, from Model Protocol on Confidentiality
Requests for information by any third party (e.g., [school administrators,] child protective services, prosecutors, mental health providers, friends or family), including the program participant’s attorney, will not be honored without express written permission (or verbal consent in person, depending) from the program participant, with the exception of mandatory reporting of child abuse/neglect or a “duty to warn” circumstance.
All communications are confidential, even when shared by the program participant in the presence of [staff] and any third parties who are working on behalf of the program participant.