Teaching Case - Budget Woes and Worse Ahead... Pine Street Inn, Boston's Iconic Homeless Shelter, Re-Thinks its Strategy

Budget Woes and Worse Ahead... Pine Street Inn, Boston's Iconic Homeless Shelter, Re-Thinks its Strategy


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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 a strategic management class, and another case, intended for an introductory statistics class. This case, designed to teach about the important role of organizational culture when changing an organization's mission, begins by introducing Pine Street's history and organizational identity as a place of last resort for many of the hardest core homeless in Boston. The case goes on to describe how, in 2004, faced with dwindling funding, Pine Street's director and board decided to commission a study that analyzed how long each incoming homeless client stayed at its shelters over a two-year period. The striking results: a small number of homeless people were chronic shelter-stayers, while the vast majority came and went in 10 days or fewer. About 20 percent stayed between 10 days and 20 weeks. Over the course of five years, these data, combined with Downie's frustrations at finding housing alternatives for shelter guests, lead Pine Street's director and board chair to propose a controversial new strategy: to shift from an organization that primarily provides the homeless with shelter beds and services to one that primarily provides permanent supportive housing to a subset of the homeless population—the chronically homeless—while providing a smaller pool of shelter beds to short-term stayers and a combination of shelter beds and transitional services to medium-term stayers. The case ends by posing board and staff concerns about the proposal.

    Learning Objective:
    This case, designed to teach about the role of organizational culture when changing an organization's mission and strategy, allows students to assess how Lyndia Downie, Pine Street director, weighed data, the organization's historic frustrations, and the organization's strongly ingrained culture to propose a major organizational change. Students are presented with staff and Board concerns, and challenged to look rigorously at the pros and cons.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: May 14, 2013
    Teaching Plan: Available with Educator Access
    HKS Case Number: 1989.0
    Case Author: Pamela Varley
    Faculty Lead: Thomas Glynn
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 17
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    Funding Source: Robert G. Wilmers Local & State Government Case Studies Fund
    _year: 2010-2015
    _pages: 16-25
    _geography: US & Canada
  • Warranty Information

    /review/1989.0.EducatorCopy.pdf, /teachingplan/1989_2.pdf