Client satisfaction with Rhode Island homeless services

Cynthia Roberts, University of Rhode Island


This mixed methods study evaluates a program improvement initiative undertaken by Crossroads, an organization that provides services, shelter and housing to more than 4,000 homeless clients annually in Providence, Rhode Island. In 2009, 212 clients were interviewed regarding needs and satisfaction with a range of services offered at the shelter. Most cited needs were finding permanent housing (55%), finding employment (23%), transportation (11%), and medical care (10%). The 105-item Client Satisfaction Survey, developed by the author and read to clients in English or Spanish, contained seven subscales (α =.71–.98) assessing satisfaction with seven key areas of concern: physical facility, security operations, case management, staff training, and education and employment services. This survey, with accompanying qualitative data, identified problems in each area. ^ As a result of this evaluation, the organization engaged in an intensive process of change in all seven areas, from increased police presence to inservice training for staff. The present study compares client satisfaction in 2011 to the 2009 data through interviews with 100 clients currently served at the shelter using a revised needs assessment checklist, the CSS, and opportunities to describe their situation in their own words. In addition, documents were reviewed and five senior management staff participated in key informant interviews to identify changes and their perspectives. ^ Similarly to the 2009 cohort, 2011 participants were mostly men (58%) ages 30–59 (70%); 48% were white with the rest mostly African-American (25%) and Hispanic (19%). Needs cited by men and women were similar to those in 2009. A 2 (gender) x 2 (race, white and non-white) x 2 (cohort, 2009 and 2011) x 2 (client type, shelter and day-only) MANOVA on the CSS found no significant differences in client satisfaction by gender, race or cohort; however, shelter residents reported higher client satisfaction (Wilks' Lambda = .9531, (3, 274) = 4.49, p<.01). This could be due to greater needs among the day clients, who often have more severe problems that have removed them from consistent sheltered housing opportunities. Positively skewed data may have accounted for the lack of significance between the 2009 and 2011 cohorts. ^ Qualitative data indicated that clients were in most cases highly satisfied with their case managers, valued being treated with respect, wanted to be treated as autonomous adults, and were interested in contributing to Crossroads through volunteer work. This evaluation underscored the way in which program improvement initiatives can bring about important practical, organizational, and service delivery changes when organizations are committed to improving services and actively dedicate the resources and support needed to implement those changes, and highlights the importance of including clients in ever-deepening ways.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Counseling

Recommended Citation

Cynthia Roberts, "Client satisfaction with Rhode Island homeless services" (2012). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3502543.