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Welcome Center Handbook Hello, Welcome Center Volunteer! Welcome! The purpose of the Welcome Center at the WLP is to serve as the heart of the shelter for all who enter. It is where guests can find out what is being offered in the shelter. It is also where guests come to chat and see a friendly face. It serves as a meeting location for volunteers to check in and our staff to greet our supporters. You have probably been chosen for the job because you are a people person, organized, and friendly. Think of yourself as an ambassador of good will and help us to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for everyone who comes through our doors.

Staff: There should be two to three direct care staff on the dining floor at all times. You should identify yourself to them and get to know them as your post here requires close communication with the direct care team. They are very helpful and no question is ever bothersome. You will be partnered with another WC volunteer for your shift.

Safety: If you are in a situation that you feel is not safe, get up and leave the welcome center and alert the staff. A guest has no reason to come in behind your desk. If you need to, call 911. There is a handout on verbal de-escalation techniques in this binder which you should become familiar with, but remember that you are not expected to intervene or de-escalate any situation. We also have a panic button located on your desk, right side under the desk top. Please refer to the Panic Button procedure also located in this binder. Please do not allow guests to leave belongings with you to watch. Please do not give guests money or clothing; refer them to the direct care staff or advocacy (on the 3rd floor).

White boards: If you are the first volunteer for the day please make sure our white boards are updated. You can post the names of staff and volunteers on duty, add the breakfast and lunch menus and check for the Cupcake of the Day at Georgetown Cupcake. Breakfast: 8-10 Lunch: Noon to 2:00 Resource Center and Library: 8:30-1:30 (8:30-12:30 on Saturday) Advocacy: 8:30m- 1:30pm (except Saturday) Laundry: 7:30-11:30 Showers: 7:30-1:00 Nap Room: 7:15-1:30 Medical: 9am-Noon (except Saturday)

Welcome Center Handbook Our Building: The kitchen, laundry room and shower area, nap room, creative expressions room, toiletry closet, and men’s bathroom are all located on the basement floor. The Resource Center is located on the 3rd floor and accessible by elevator. Guests can go up freely and alone between 8:30am and 1:30pm. Guests can use our computers, make phone calls, fax and make copies, pick up their mail, and use the library. We also have a board for messages left by voicemail. Our advocacy team takes care of housing, legal and other issues, and are also located on the 3rd floor. We have a conference room for classes and several are taught there on a weekly basis. The medical clinic is located on the Mezzanine level. The medical staff will come to the basement to bring guests who have signed up for services in the Welcome Center to their offices. The Shelter Manager is also located on the Mezzanine level. **Please note that guests may not go to the 4th floor unaccompanied. If a visitor has an appointment with someone on the 4th floor, please call the staff person in question to confirm before sending them up.**

Located on Your Welcome Center Desk: Laundry: Guests can sign up to do their laundry once a week. The sign up sheet is on a clipboard on the welcome center desk and guests can sign up for future weeks if they would like. There are two to three slots for every hour. Guests need to have a staff member accompany them to use the laundry facilities. Please do not let guests into the laundry room unless asked by a staff member. **In the event of an emergency, if all slots are full please alert the direct care staff.

Showers: Guests can sign up for showers in the binder on the welcome center desk. If the slots are filled they will need to try a different day. There are two shower stalls (one is handicapped accessible) so two guests can sign up on one time slot line. Guests need to check in with staff at the time of their appointments. Please do not let guests into the showers unless asked by a staff member. **In cases of an emergency please alert the staff.

Linens Sign-Out Sheet: When a guest uses our shower, she has the option to sign out a towel, washcloth, and bathrobe. A guest can also request a blanket for the nap room. Please explain to the guest that she needs to leave these items to the laundry basket in the shower room or nap room when she’s done.

Welcome Center Handbook Advocacy: Advocacy sign-up is on the 3rd floor, which opens at 8:30. Advocates help guests with a range of issues in a one-on-one setting. Brochures outlining our Advocacy program are in the Welcome Center next to the white board. **In cases of an emergency or you think the guest is in danger, please alert a staff person about the situation.

Medical Care: WLP partners with Healthcare Without Walls to provide medical care for our ladies. HWW is here 9am-12pm on Monday through Friday; there is no medical care on Saturdays. The medical staff will put their sheet out each morning on the WC desk. Guests can sign up, and the nurses will look for them in the lunch room. No one should go up to the medical clinic or the Mezzanine unless accompanied by the medical or direct care staff.

Donations: Many people make arrangements to drop off donations of toiletries and other items in the WC. Please be sure to thank them and have them complete a donation form, found in the second desk drawer. The white copy should be placed in the envelope marked "In-Kind Donations" in the same drawer, so that we can send a thank you note. Occasionally, people will come in with clothing donations. Unless they have pre-arranged this with the Shelter Manager, we cannot accept them. Thank them. Explain that we do not accept clothing donations for capacity reasons. There is a list of places that accept used clothing and food in the Development display on the wall that you can give them. If they have questions, please have them contact the Shelter Manager Maritza, (ext 7199) or have them speak with one of the Direct Care staff.

Messages: Please regularly check the messages on the phone. If there's a red blinking light, it means a message is waiting. Instructions are found taped to computer. Messages left on the machine should be written down and given to Direct Care staff. You can also forward messages to the relevant staff by pressing 8, then entering their extension, found in the directory on the desk.

Phone Use: If the phone rings, it's your job to answer it. Answer any questions you can, and consult staff for any you can't. To transfer a call, follow the instructions taped to the computer. Extensions are the last 4 digits of staff phone numbers, found in a directory on the desk. Guests may use the telephone when the Resource Center is closed, before 8:30 or after 1:30. Guest phone use should not exceed 5 minutes.

Welcome Center Handbook Computer: The computer is for volunteer & staff use only, but feel free to look up and print out information for guests.


Volunteers will check in at the WC. There is a tablet for individual volunteers to sign in with their PIN (found on the back of their nametag), and a pink laptop for volunteers here with a group (no PIN). Please welcome first time volunteers and show them where to sign in & out.

Visitors: If a visitor comes in to meet with a staff member, please call that person. Contact numbers are located to the right of the computer. If you cannot locate that person tell direct care staff. If a visitor asks for you to identify or find a guest for them, do not do so. Please direct them to a staff person.

Men: Unless a man is a kitchen volunteer, maintenance worker or has an appointment with a staff member there is no reason he should be in the shelter. WLP does not offer any services to men and we do NOT give out any guest information to men (or any other visitors) or look for their friends or family in the shelter. If a man walks into the shelter and does not meet the above criteria, please be polite but firm, and alert a staff member.

New Guests: If a guest comes in and identifies themselves as new, please explain what we do at WLP. Also alert the Direct Care staff that the guest is new and relay any pertinent information that they may give you. We want to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for everyone who comes through our door.

Packages: If you accept a package from UPS or Fedex, you may sign for it. If it is addressed to anyone on WLP staff please call that person, otherwise bring it to the Resource Center desk (ext. 7206)

Breaks: You are welcome to have food and drink from the kitchen. Please eat all food in the dining hall and bring a covered cup or mug to have drinks in the Welcome Center. There is a staff bathroom on the 3rd floor or you may use the restroom to the left of the elevator.

Lost & Found: On a shelf at the desk you will find a box labeled “Lost & Found�. If anyone returns an item to you, please attach a piece of masking tape or a post-it, write the date it was given to you and place it in the box. If it is a clothing item and hanging it in the closet makes sense please do so. Periodically we will go through the items and remove those that have not been claimed.

Need something to do?

Bored in the Welcome Center? • • • •

Organize the desk drawers- do we have all the supplies we need? Straighten up the desk. Have phone messages been checked? (look for the blinking red light) Check the postings on the bulletin board for outdated materials. Are the materials posted neat and clean?

• •

Is the shelter binder up to date? Wipe off one-time volunteer nametags left in the jar and return them to the back of the nametag bin. Take a break and help yourself to a cup of coffee or a snack. Ask our staff person about their position/experience working at the WLP!

• • •

Google women’s issues or homelessness to read current articles or blogs relating to the work we do here.

Chat with the ladies- maybe stand outside the door of the WC and make small talk for a bit.

Look up free activities happening today or this week to put on the bulletin boards outside the Welcome Center. Maybe there is a free concert tonight or you can alert the ladies to the free day at a museum. There is usually something interesting and free at the Boston Public Library.

Directing Volunteer Inquiries “I want to volunteer! How do I get started?” If the person is interested in volunteering, direct them to our website at and instruct them to click on the “Volunteer” section. Let them know that once they have filled out an on-line application our Volunteer Manager will be in touch with them. “Can I come serve lunch tomorrow?” We require volunteers to commit to at least 8 hours of service per month for at least 3 months so that we can provide a stable community for our guests. All volunteers must submit an on-line application and attend an orientation before they can begin volunteering. “My group wants to spend an hour serving lunch next Saturday. Can we do that at the WLP?” One-time groups can be directed to Jennifer Hanlon Wigon, WLP Volunteer Manager (ext 7211 or “My company wants to help out. What can we do?” If anyone from a corporation calls asking about volunteer opportunities, please send them to Jennifer . “I want to collect clothing/toiletries/coats/umbrellas for your guests. How do I do this?” Any questions from individuals, groups or faith communities regarding in-kind donations can go to Maritza Rosario, shelter manager (ext 7199 or When scheduled Groups or Individuals come in to help: “I’m from Boston Cares and I’m supposed to volunteer?” We work with Boston Cares, a volunteer organization in Boston. The volunteers with Boston Cares may never have been to the WLP before and may need some direction. Please have them sign in at the pink laptop and also tell them to sign in on the Boston Cares sign-in sheet, right inside the kitchen door. make sure they get a nametag (make one with them if their name isn’t in the box) and direct them to the kitchen. They should ask for the kitchen manager when they get there. “We’re with a group and we’re volunteering in the kitchen” If a group comes in and isn’t sure what to do please have them make a nametag, sign in on the pink laptop, and then direct them to the kitchen manager. “I’m a new volunteer and I’ve forgotten where I’m supposed to report” If a new volunteer comes in and isn’t sure what to do- ask them where they are supposed to volunteer. In the kitchen? In our resource center? Make sure they sign in with their PIN. Please have them put on a nametag (make one if needed). Direct them where they need to go. You can also call Jennifer (ext 7211) or Volunteer Coordinator Kyle (ext. 7208) for help.

Please know guests are not able to volunteer at the WLP at this time.

Daily Checklist Welcome Center Checklist Opening: • • • • • • •

Turn on the computer, sign-in iPad, and pink laptop. Make sure the sign up sheets are on the desk. Update the white boards - breakfast and lunch menu, staff and volunteers on the schedule, Cupcake of the Day (after 8 am). Check that there are paper slips for the nap room lottery. Check the phone for messages and deliver messages to the Direct Care staff or forward to the appropriate staff extension. (delete message after you're done) Fold and put away any laundry left from the previous day. Be ready to give out blankets, towels, and bathrobes.

Closing: • •

Give staff any messages or packages that you accepted. All donations that came in have been given to the staff.

• • •

Tidy and wipe down desk. Fold and put away remaining house laundry. Leave computer on so that Direct Care Staff can write their end-of-day notes. Staff may ask you to help with nap room beds or wiping down tables.

Thank you for volunteering, and have a great rest of the day!

Frequently Asked Questions: Direct Care Q: What does your job entail? A: The Direct Care Team is on the floor with the community at all times, and our main goal is to make sure our guests are safe and comfortable. 90% of our job is milieu care: developing relationships and making sure we know the guests, and that they know us. With your support, we ensure the guests are knowledgeable about what the WLP offers and are receiving the services they need, such as medical care and advocacy. We respond to emergencies and de-escalate crises and conflicts. We coordinate the guests’ laundry, showers, nap room, and toiletries closet. In addition to this, we also do kitchen and nap room laundry. Q: Can I let guests in to do their laundry or get something for them from the closet? A: We ask that volunteers only unlock the laundry/shower room, nap room, and toiletries closet if explicitly asked to do so by staff. This is to maintain consistency in how we provide services and supplies, and to ensure that the guests who have signed up for services are able to access them. ****Your role (?) is to support both staff and guests by getting them the information and supplies they need to speed the process along (towels, sheets, explaining the sign up process, answering questions). Q: When should I ask staff for help? A: Any time you don't know the answer to a question or aren't sure about a procedure. We are happy to answer your questions! If you are concerned about a guest's health or safety, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or if a guest has a special request, please let us know! Q: Why don't you give out clothing anymore? A: We simply do not have the space. We do give out emergency clothing, and that is all our closet can handle! There are other organizations in the area that do give out clothing, such as St. Francis House on Boylston St, and we direct our guests there. In the Resource Center we can provide referrals to Dress for Success and the Material Aid and Advocacy Program. We work with an organization that collects donations and then gives us exactly what we need, which is often new jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, etc. For this reason, we do not accept clothing donations. In the winter, we will always give out hats, scarves and gloves, and coats. We also do a sneaker drive every year.

Trauma-Informed Care: Volunteer Edition What is Trauma-Informed Care, and why is it used? Women’s Lunch Place uses this model with the goal of creating the best environment or our guests. Once we understand how trauma affects women, we can create interactions that are empathetic and nonthreatening. The more trauma-informed we are, the more effective we are! Trauma is “an event or situation that causes great distress and disruption,” and affects every guest. Trauma can form from many circumstances, be it the stress of homelessness, the effect of a domestic violence situation, the death of a family member or loss of a job. Trauma can often represent itself in ways that seem unrelated, including food. Main points of Trauma-Informed Care: •

Trauma survivors often feel a loss of control and of decision-making abilities. By giving our guests options (however small), we give them the ability to re-empower themselves and direct their own lives. – For Example: Regular or Vegetarian? White or wheat bread? The sense of control a survivor has over her body is very important. – For Example: Bessy does not like to be touched unexpectedly anywhere on her body. She reacts defensively to a tap on the arm or shoulder to get her attention. Try to understand what seems to be a poor decision or odd behavior. – For Example: Women who put a ton of sugar in their coffee may want the feel of a hit without resorting to drugs. People who have experienced trauma can be hyper-aware of their surroundings, and will pay heed to things otherwise unnoticeable. – For Example: “She got a bigger scoop than I did.” Consistency is very important, and helps minimize the feeling of disempowerment. – For Example: While it is tempting, we do not give out seconds to those who are perceived as more vulnerable, or go into the closet for toiletries outside of open times. While these rules can seem unreasonably strict, the clear boundaries help provide a safe, fair environment. There is an inherent power imbalance, which we do our best to minimize. We do much of this by validating our guests, and recognizing the skills and knowledge they have. We also do our best to communicate about changes that may occur as soon and as transparently as possible. We are happy to listen to details about their lives and experiences if they choose to share them, but never ask them personal questions unless they are necessary to provide a specific service or locate information for them.

For more information on Trauma-Informed Care: Elliott, Denise E. and Bjelajac, Paula and Fallot, Roger D. and Markoff, Laurie S. and Reed, Beth Glover. “Trauma-Informed or Trauma-Denied: Principles and Implements of Trauma-Informed Services for Women.” Journal of Community Psychology Vol. 33, No. 4 (2005) 461-477. Wiley Interscience. Web. 20 November, 2012

Verbal De-Escalation Techniques Verbal De-Escalation Techniques for Defusing or Talking Down an Explosive Situation Author: Eva Skolnik-Acker, LICSW; Committee for the Study and Prevention of Violence Against Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter Remember that you are not expected to de-escalate a situation. However, you might find these tips useful when talking with a guest who appears frustrated or agitated. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, please get a staff member. There are two important concepts to keep in mind: • Reasoning with an enraged person is not possible. The first and only objective in de-escalation is to reduce the level of arousal so that discussion becomes possible. • De-escalation techniques are abnormal. We are driven to fight, flight or freeze when scared. However, in de-escalation, we can do none of these. We must appear centered and calm even when we are terrified. Therefore these techniques must be practiced before they are needed so that they can become “second nature.” There are 3 parts to be mastered in verbal de-escalation: A: THE WORKER IN CONTROL OF HIM/HER SELF Appear calm, centered and self-assured even though you don’t feel it. Relax facial muscles and look confident. Anxiety can make the client feel anxious and unsafe which can escalate aggression. Use a modulated, low monotonous tone of voice (our normal tendency is to have a high pitched, tight voice when scared). If you have time, remove necktie, scarf, hanging jewelry, religious or political symbols before you see the client (not in front of him/her) Do not be defensive-even if the comments or insults are directed at you, they are not about you. Do not defend yourself or anyone else from insults, curses or misconceptions about their roles. Be aware of any resources available for back up. Know that you have the choice to leave, tell the client to leave or call the police should de-escalation not be effective Be very respectful even when firmly setting limits or calling for help. The agitated individual is very sensitive to feeling shamed and disrespected. We want him/her to know that it is not necessary to show us that they must be respected. We automatically treat them with dignity and respect. B: THE PHYSICAL STANCE Never turn your back for any reason Always be at the same eye level. Encourage the client to be seated, but if he/she needs to stand, you stand up also. Allow extra physical space between you – about four times your usual distance. Anger and agitation fill the extra space between you and your client. Do not stand full front to client. Stand at an angle so you can sidestep away if needed. Do not maintain constant eye contact. Allow the client to break his/her gaze and look away. Do not point or shake your finger. DO NOT smile. This could look like mockery or anxiety

Verbal De-Escalation Techniques Do not touch – even if some touching is generally culturally appropriate and usual in your setting. Cognitive distortion in agitated people allow for easy misinterpretation of physical contact as hostile or threatening. Keep hands out of your pockets, up and available to protect yourself. It also demonstrates nonverbal ally, that you do not have a concealed weapon Do not argue or try to convince, give choices i.e. empower. Don’t be defensive or judgmental. C: THE DE-ESCALATION DISCUSSION Remember that there is no content except trying to calmly bring the level of arousal down to a safer place. Do not get loud or try to yell over a screaming person. Wait until he/she takes a breath; then talk. Speak calmly at an average volume. Respond selectively; answer all informational questions no matter how rudely asked, e.g. “Why do I have to fill out these g-d forms?” This is a real information-seeking question). DO NOT answer abusive questions (e.g. “Why are all social workers (an insult?) This question should get no response what so ever. Explain limits and rules in an authoritative, firm, but always respectful tone. Give choices where possible in which both alternatives are safe ones (e.g. Would you like to continue our meeting calmly or would you prefer to stop now and come back tomorrow when things can be more relaxed?) Empathize with feelings but not with the behavior (e.g. “I understand that you have every right to feel angry, but it is not okay for you to threaten me or my staff.) Do not solicit how a person is feeling or interpret feelings in an analytic way. Do not argue or try to convince. Wherever possible, tap into the client’s cognitive mode: DO NOT ask “Tell me how you feel." But: "Help me to understand what your are saying to me.” People are not attacking you while they are teaching you what they want you to know. Suggest alternative behaviors where appropriate e.g. “Would you like to take a break and have some water or take a walk?" Give the consequences of inappropriate behavior without threats or anger. Represent external controls as institutional rather than personal. Trust your instincts. If you assess or feel that de-escalation is not working, STOP! You will know within 2 or 3 minutes if it’s beginning to work. Tell the person to leave, escort him/her to the door, call for help or leave yourself and call the police. There is nothing magic about talking someone down. You are transferring your sense of genuine interest in what the client wants to tell you, of calmness, and of respectful, clear limit-setting in the hope that the client actually wishes to respond positively to your respectful attention. Do not be a hero and do not try de-escalation when a person has a weapon. In that case, simply comply.

Verbal De-Escalation Techniques

Panic Button Procedure

Panic Button Procedure The WLP has installed panic buttons on all staff and volunteer desks on the upper right inside surface. A button has been placed in the laundry room on the upper right side of the washing machine (where the shelves are). Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the placement of the buttons. If a potentially violent situation is developing, and you believe you are in jeopardy and are unable to handle the situation using the De- Escalation techniques or get to a direct care staff member, push your panic button and hold for the count of 3. The button sends a text message and email to shelter staff identifying the location of the issue and a strobe light will flash in the kitchen as well. One direct care staff must remain in dining hall at all times. All other shelter staff are to report to the area where the alert was issued until the situation is under control. The kitchen manager should go into the electric room and push the event all clear button once it has been determined that the situation is under control. The Volunteer Manager will show all resource center/welcome center volunteers the panic button locations and inform them of this procedure. WLP will train all staff and run drills to practice the above procedure 4 times per year.

2018 Welcome Center Handbook  

Updated May 2018

2018 Welcome Center Handbook  

Updated May 2018