Teaching Case - Budget Woes and Worse Ahead... Boston's Pine Street Inn Examines Patterns of Homeless Shelter Use

Budget Woes and Worse Ahead... Boston's Pine Street Inn Examines Patterns of Homeless Shelter Use


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  • Product Description

    In 2004, Boston's preeminent homeless shelter, Pine Street Inn, faced the prospect of steadily dwindling funds for shelter services over the next few years. This stark reality--combined with persistent frustrations at finding permanent homes for homeless clients--persuaded Pine Street's director and board to regroup, gather data, and rethink Pine Street's organizational strategy. The Harvard Kennedy School has designed two cases that look at this juncture in Pine Street's history--this one, intended for an introductory statistics class and a second case, intended for a strategic management class. Each case is designed to stand on its own. It is also possible to use the cases in sequence--the statistics case followed by the management case. There is some overlap in the content of the two written cases, as the description of Pine Street's history and organizational identity is included in both. This case, designed to introduce the concept of statistical outliers, consists of two parts. A five-page written case introduces the Pine Street Inn and provides a brief description of its origins, history, and mission, in the context of a burgeoning homelessness population between its founding in 1969 and 2004, when the case dilemma is set. The key point is to understand the strong historical commitment of Pine Street (1) to turn no one away (making it the place of last resort for many of the hardest core homeless in Boston) and (2) to provide a respectful, non-judgmental, and non-conditional welcome to all. The second part consists of data from the length of stay study, presented in spreadsheet form. In this part, students are challenged to interpret the length of stay data, in the context of Pine Street's history and organizational identity, and to consider whether it suggests a new path forward.

    Learning Objective:
    The case is intended for an introductory statistics course, to explore the importance of outliers in a data sample: how they may skew the mean and how they may, in their own right, lead to a much clearer understanding of a problem—in this case, the nature of homeless shelter bed demand. Next, the instructor may want to ask students (1) the possible implications of this new understanding and (2) what additional information would help policymakers to recommend a change in homeless services.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: May 14, 2013
    Teaching Plan: Available with Educator Access
    HKS Case Number: 1988.0
    Case Author: Pamela Varley
    Faculty Lead: John Friedman
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 5
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    Funding Source: Robert G. Wilmers Local & State Government Case Studies Fund
    _year: 2010-2015
    _pages: 1-15
    _geography: US & Canada
  • Warranty Information

    /review/1988.0.EducatorCopy.pdf, /teachingplan/1988_2.pdf