Multiple beds are lined up along the wall of a large room.
Photo courtesy of Gawron Turgeon Architects/commons.wikimedia.org

In this month’s focus I want to pass on to the reader some reflections on a weekend trip I made last month outside of Baltimore to York, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.

My purpose of going to see these Pennsylvania cities was to asses the quality of homeless services there was against the services offered in the Washington Baltimore areas.

May I say that I was very impressed by all three.

No, these places were not five-star hotels. However, the services that I received were just outstanding. The staff was very professional. The staff was very knowledgeable about the area. The staff was able to tell me of every single service available for me. And staff members were very courteous.

To be honest, I was shocked.

I didn’t expect this much help in a homeless shelter. When I sought information they never said, “I don’t know.” Their answer was “stand by, I will get back with you,” and in less than five minutes that’s exactly what they did, with all of the information that I had requested.

The quality of food was outstanding. The dorm areas were very, very clean. There was always clean linen available. They never ever ran short of anything. Sheets, blankets, pillowcases, toiletry kits were always on hand.

And, witnessing all of this, I had to stop and think a minute: why do the District and Baltimore have this problem? Why are staff people rude and arrogant and downright nasty to their clients, and why are the clients so nasty.

While I was in York and Harrisburg, I actually had some great conversations with homeless people, which again shocked me. I am so used to getting such negative responses from homeless people that I’m almost afraid to say anything to anyone, that I might get my head bitten off.

But in Pennsylvania I was very impressed. I want to thank the York Rescue Mission for having me as their guest, as well as the Bethlehem Mission in Harrisburg for having me as their guest. And thanks to the Pittsburgh Department of Human Services for their staff’s generosity in working with me on this story.  By their positive insight they were able to tell me some of the haves and have-nots of their city, as well as the entire state, about the work that is done on the behalf of the homeless in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

As I return to my focus on Baltimore I want to direct attention to the family life center located in the Franklin Square business district, a co-ed facility where men and women and families are given residence.

I also want to direct attention to the American Rescue Worker church mission, located at 1401 S. Hanover St. It is a 44-bed facility with a special spirituality program for homeless men: Sunday and Thursday services, at 5 p.m., dinner, and overnight accommodations. The quality of service is good and the staff is courteous.

I think high quality and courteous customer service is important in any environment, and those who don’t provide it face the problem of losing clientele. Customer service training is needed when serving the homeless, and people have got to get this idea out their mind that good customer service is not important because this is a “shelter” and not the “Ritz-Carlton.” If you are serving people in any way – a good business or a shelter – good customer service is important. Too often I hear complaints from the homeless about being treated like dirt. Your clients are people. Treat them as such.

August Mallory welcomes your questions and comments at [email protected] Also, please listen to August Mallory on the More Betterman show, WOL – AM 1450 the third Friday of every month.