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A Simpler Method for Understanding Emergency Shelter Access Patterns

by   Geoffrey G. Messier, et al.
University of Calgary

The Simplified Access Metric (SAM) is a new approach for characterizing emergency shelter access patterns as a measure of shelter client vulnerability. The goal of SAM is to provide shelter operators with an intuitive way to understand access patterns that can be implemented by non-technical staff using spreadsheet operations. Client data from a large North American shelter will be used to demonstrate that SAM produces similar results to traditional transitional, episodic and chronic client cluster analysis. Since SAM requires less data than cluster analysis, it is also able to generate a real time picture of how shelter access patterns are affected by external factors. Timelines generated from nine years of shelter client data using SAM demonstrate the impact of Housing First programming and the COVID-19 lockdown on how people access shelter. Finally, SAM allows shelter staff to move beyond assigning transitional, episodic and chronic labels and instead use the "soft" output of SAM directly as a measure of vulnerability.


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