1873.0 Linda Gibbs and the Department of Homeless Services: Overhauling New York City’s Approach to Shelter
In January 2002, newly elected New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Linda Gibbs as commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS). Gibbs had already earned a reputation as a results-oriented manager who could broker deals with opponents, rethink operations, and use data to improve planning and policies. But at DHS, Gibbs faced a crisis in the making. The agency's reputation was sullied by bad press and court challenges, its policies were often determined by litigation, and its budget and network of shelters were steadily growing. Worst of all, more families were flowing into the system than DHS could handle. To respond, Gibbs would have to transform not only how DHS defined and accomplished its mission, but also how the city as a whole addressed the growing problem of homelessness. This case follows Gibbs's efforts to engage constituents in crafting a new strategic plan and focus for DHS; contain the population surge in the family shelter system through prevention and changes in incentives; and negotiate an end to decades of litigation. It also details her role in initiating an ambitious 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in New York City and in brokering a deal with New York State to house some of the neediest homeless. The case should be useful for those interested in organizational management, organizational transformation, inter-agency collaboration, and the alleviation of homelessness.