Bob Van Oosterhout

Hard Times Cafe Training Manual
Support Opportunity & Service Circles - A Neigborhood Organizing Tool
About Bob (...What about Bob?)
Anger and Impulse Control
Anxiety, Depression, PTSD
Behavioral Health Integration with Primary Care
Bring Truth to Fear: We CAN Work Together
Hard Times Cafe Model of Empowerment
Links to Videos for Online Stress Management at LCC
Managing Chronic Pain and Headaches
Mental Health
Moral Philosophy
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Practical Psychology: What Works and Makes Sense
Problem Solving - Responding Effectively to Problems
Slow Down and Lighten Up
Spiritual Writing
Stress Management
What Works
Resume/Curriculum Vitae
Comments, Suggestions, Discussion

This manual was written in 1999 in Word Perfect 5.1 format.  There is a lot of cleanup needed to put it into MS Word format.  The formatting makes it a bit difficult to read but it does provide a very detailed description of all aspects of the Hard Times Cafe.
I hope to have this appropriately edited in the near future.


                                          HTC TRAINING MANUAL: CONTENTS


1.         Program overview

2.         Philosophy and approach

a.         Mission, values, goals

b.         Principles,

c.         Focus

d.         What is empowerment

e.         The difference between empowerment and providing services

f.          Obstacles to empowerment

g.         HTC model of empowerment

h.         HTC culture

i.          Approach to training

j.          Standing ovation


3.         Structure

a.         Organizational chart

b.         Elders

c.         Elders meeting

d.         Self-managing teams

e.         List of teams and functions

f.          Lines of authority

g.         Weekly meeting

h.         Decision making

i.          Election process


4.         POI system

a.         Overview

b.         What POI ratings mean

c.         Ratings process

d.         Ratings form

e.         Ratings notes

f.          Exchange options

g.         Tracking procedures


5.         Conflict Resolution

a.         HTC approach to conflict resolution

b.         Steps for dealing with patron conflicts

c.         Guidelines for elders in dealing with principle violations

d.         How to intervene in conflict situations


6.         Staff and coaches

a.         Role of staff and coaches

b.         Qualities of effective staff

c.         ABC's of empowerment

7.         Keys to Success                                                                                                               

                                                                         Part 1


                                                              Program Overview



































                                                                                                              HARD TIMES CAFE


                                                         MISSION STATEMENT


The Hard Times Cafe (HTC) views disadvantaged people as a resource to be tapped rather than a problem to be solved.  As an empowerment program that is owned and operated by the participants (called patrons), HTC focuses on providing opportunities for disadvantaged people to work together to meet their basic needs while developing the skills, habits, and motivation that lead to regular employment.  HTC promotes and supports community economic development and the development of resources that help disadvantaged people to increase their self-reliance, sense of belonging, and involvement in community life.



                                                        The Dignity of Each Person

                                                Focus on Potential rather than Deficits





(1)                   To work together to meet our needs and improve our lives;

                        (2)       To develop skills and attitudes that will help us to prosper;

                        (3)       To create a positive impression in the community that will bring us respect and opportunity;

                        (4)       To improve our community;

                        (5)       To serve as a positive role model for children.                     

                                                              HTC PRINCIPLES


Rather than rules, HTC patrons developed a set of principles to serve as a code of conduct and guide for dealing with problems.  Unlike rules,  HTC principles are designed to take into account the context and history.  If a violation occurs, the focus is on how to back on track in order to follow the principles.  Principles violations are an opportunity to help and support someone rather than a need for punishment.  The following principles are reviewed and discussed at least once a year by patrons at the weekly meeting.  They are part of the bylaws and every patron has agreed to abide by them.  These principles are a very important part of how HTC operates.


Honesty                We will be truthful, ethical, moral, trustworthy, sincere and dependable.


Quality                 We will seek quality in our thoughts, work and relationships.  Quality implies value.  We want to think, work and relate in ways that are valuable to each other, ourselves and our community.


Self-Supporting    We will do all we can to support ourselves and others.  We will not seek handouts but will work to earn what we need.


Courteous             We will respect and show consideration for others now matter how they treat us.

Faith in a

Higher Power       We will remain loyal to the religious principles that guide each of us.


Perseverance       We will follow through with our commitments, obligations and responsibilities.  We will go the "extra mile."


Endurance            We will "stick with it" and "won't give up" until our efforts are no longer needed or helpful.

Self-Esteem         We will remember that we all have the potential and capacity to improve.  We will build self-esteem by becoming more competent and accomplishing our goals.


Ambition               We will maintain a strong desire to improve ourselves and our community.


Positive Attitude  We will strive to look for positive opportunities in everything that is presented to us.


Work Together    We will listen to each other's needs and cooperate in building something that is greater than each one of us.


Sharing                 We will be open to each other with our feelings, ideas, needs and resources.  We believe that when we help each other we all prosper.

                                                     Focus of the Hard Times Cafe



Hard Times Cafe has traditionally worked with people who have limited resources and opportunities and are often considered to be "difficult to serve" by traditional human service and welfare to work agencies.  HTC patrons include those who have:



‘                           Poor  motivation, are skeptical of "the system" or have given up


‘                           Poor work habits


‘                           Low self-esteem


‘                           Limited work skills


‘                           Poorly developed  interpersonal and problem solving skills


‘                           Difficulty with impulse control


‘                           Poorly developed thinking, planning and organizing skills.


‘                           No support network


‘                           Very few resources


‘                           Difficulty accepting responsibility


‘                           Problems with commitments and follow-through


‘Handicaps that limit employability                                                                                           

                                                                                    WHAT IS EMPOWERMENT


The Meaning of Empowerment

Power is the ability to act or produce an effect.  The prefix "em" means them.  Empowerment means that a person or group has the ability to act on their own behalf or to have a positive effect on their lives.  One of the dictionary definitions of empowerment is "to give authority."  When I have authority, I am responsible - I have the ability to respond in a way that has a positive effect in my life.


You cannot empower someone by telling or forcing them to do something even if it seems to be in their own best interest.  There are a lot of potential side effects to that including a loss of dignity and self-respect and a build up of resistance and negativity.  Empowerment involves having choices that make a difference. 


Empowerment at HTC is understood as a process of removing obstacles while providing opportunities,  resources and support that allow individuals and communities to reach their potential.


Components of Empowerment:

There are seven components of empowerment as it is practiced at HTC:


(1)  Empowerment involves a way of looking at someone.  Empowerment focuses on resources and opportunities rather than problems and deficits. Discouragement and hopelessness are common among disadvantaged people.  Most human service agencies are required to identify and document problems and difficulties before services can be delivered.  Clients and defined and organized according to their problems.  Empowerment changes that focus.  Rather than ask what's wrong, HTC explores the potential of each patron and works to create opportunities where they can recognize and realize their own unique talents and gifts.  It is important for staff to see and interact with patrons according to their potential so they can see it themselves. 

(2)  Empowerment is a process of improvement.  HTC does not expect quick fixes but works to help patrons develop habits that lead to lasting, ongoing improvement. There is no hurry or pressure but the focus is always on how skills, conditions and capabilities can be improved.  This requires a supportive atmosphere and open, honest feedback along with the resources and opportunities that allow patrons to take the steps necessary to keep moving forward.


(3)  Empowerment happens in relationship People seldom change their perceptions or behavior in isolation.  HTC works to develop a supportive relationships with open, accepting communication so that patrons can let down their defenses and make improvements that allow them to realize their potential.  This requires regular, ongoing feedback on a one-to-one and group basis along with the ability to respond to obstacles as they arise and offer alternatives that lead to lasting progress. 


(4)  Empowerment is a partnership. If everyone could empower themselves, there would be no injustice or inequality in the world.  Neither is it possible to empower someone by giving them a recipe to follow or telling them what to do.  Empowerment is a partnership where professionals and disadvantaged people each bring their skills, abilities and limitations to work together to accomplish what neither group can do alone.  Empowerment is not something we do for someone or to someone, it is done with another person.  It is a mutual process of cooperation and learning from each other.


(5)  Empowerment involves community. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.  One of the greatest tragedies of poverty in the USA is the sense of isolation that it brings along with it.  A sense of belonging and the experience of contributing and helping others helps patrons to realize their value and worth. HTC takes every opportunity to encourage and stimulate patrons to work together and support each other. 


(6)  Empowerment has a long term focus. Although many patrons make a lot of progress over the short term, the main focus of HTC is toward long-term, lasting improvement.  This allows us to plant seeds that can be nurtured over time and to stick with someone even when progress seems slow.  HTC avoids actions that might make someone feel good in the short term but can create obstacles to long term improvement. When problems or difficulties have arisen at HTC, we deal with the immediate situation as soon as possible to prevent long term problems.  We also work to develop systems or structures that will prevent difficulties in the future.  Likewise, we continually evaluate and fine tune systems that are operating to insure they work effectively and are responsive to patrons needs and potential. 


(7)  Empowerment is a selfless process.  Working at HTC is a process of listening, accepting and understanding before advising or providing feedback.  If you know ahead of time what you are going to do in a situation, you are not listening to what is unique about the people and circumstances in front of you.  A person who is self-centered cannot work effectively at HTC.  A big or needy ego blocks one's ability to see what is happening from the patron's perspective and to act in the best interest of the program.  It takes a lot of energy to maintain focus on the both the immediate and long term needs and potential of HTC patrons.  We lose that focus to the extent we are focused on our own self.     



Empowerment is a very different process than providing services to someone.  It requires a different way of looking at patrons, a different language and a different approach to how and when we intervene.


Traditional Service Perspective                   HTC Empowerment Perspective




Do things "for" or "to" someone................................ Do things "with' someone

Research as primary guide for intervention................ Experience as guide

Fixed perspective                                                        Open perspective

Needs assessment                                                        Listening survey

Experts                                                                        Co-learners


Client                                                                          Participant

Recipient                                                                     Partner

Subordinate                                                                 Equal


Focus on deficits, problems                                        Focus on strengths, potential

Modify behavior                                                         Develop natural gifts

Change individual                                                       Build community

Conform                                                                      Adapt


Rules                                                                           Principles

Applications                                                                Introductions

Accountability                                                 Responsibility

Should                                                             Can


Agency directed                                                          Consumer directed

Hierarchy                                                                    Shared Responsibility

Politics                                                                        Needs, opportunities

Limited consumer input on decisions              Consensus decisions


Charity                                                            Solidarity

Supervisor                                                                   Coach

Therapist                                                                     Mentor

Case Management                                                       Self-management

Auditor                                                                        Advisor

Professional knows                                                     Participant knows                   

                                          OBSTACLES TO EMPOWERMENT



We can only help to empower someone to the extent we understand their needs and potential in the context of their immediate situation.  This requires listening and reflection.  Hurry puts us into action mode.  We miss information when we are rushing.  Empowerment requires building a trusting relationship.  This involves taking time to listen to individuals and groups and time to think about how they see things, what their potential is, and what steps are needed to help them to realize their gifts and talents.


Stress, Pressure

Stress limits our receptivity and, like hurry, gears us up for action.  Since it is usually quicker to tell others what to do or do things ourselves, we tend to miss the perceptions, needs, and potential of patrons when we are under stress and pressure.  Empowerment requires us to be receptive to people, conditions and opportunities.  We need to be able to anticipate possible consequences of patrons decisions and give appropriate feedback to insure a positive learning experience. 



Empowerment at HTC is a partnership where staff respond to patron actions and input in a way that communicates acceptance, recognizes potential and provide needed feedback.  If a patron is acting in a positive manner, we need to recognize and strengthen these actions so the patron realizes they are moving in a helpful direction.  Likewise, if a patron is making a mistake or acting in a negative way, we need to point this out to them in a way that communicates confidence that they can improve.  Not pointing out a mistake or principle violation sends a message that says that behavior is OK.  Dealing with problems gets more difficult the longer we put it off.


Unresponsiveness communicates a lack of respect and concern.  Empowerment is a two way street.  If we are not responsive to the needs and potential of the patrons, empowerment doesn't happen. Dignity and potential are recognized and realized in interaction with other people.  This requires making an effort to understand and respond to each patron each time we meet them.



Empowerment is a give and take process that involves constant openness and feedback.  There are many ways to look at the same situation.  Flexibility is important so that we incorporate others point of view into our understanding.  We often need to be able to suspend our own point of view to see the larger picture. 


It is important to be very clear about limits and not to set limits where they are not needed.  Limits at HTC are defined by the principles and values as well at patron and team decisions.  Flexibility allows us to find solutions that fit a particular situation within the limits that have been established.  There are times when it is helpful to review decisions and limits to insure a continued fit. 


Problems and conflicts need to be responded to immediately to prevent them from growing and festering.  The only way to effectively deal with these situations is to let go of whatever we might have been working on before the problem arose. 


Focus on Problems

All problems and deficits exist within a context that also includes potential and opportunity.  It is easy to miss the positives when we see a person or situation in terms of their problems or deficits.  When the focus is primarily on problems, people tend to see themselves as problems.  This leads to frustration and hopelessness.  It is easy to lose track of our gifts and opportunities when we are struggling with hard times.  People are not like mechanical objects where we need to figure out what's wrong before we can fix it.  The greatest obstacles in human problems are often perception and focus - not having the confidence and vision to see that improvement is possible.  The only way to see potential and opportunity is to look for it and recognize it.  Looking primarily at "what's wrong" takes us away from that.


Need for Control

Empowerment mean to give authority.  We cannot give authority and maintain control.  As partners in the empowerment process, a competent staff member will have considerable influence.  Influence is very different from control.  It requires trust and patience along with the ability to communicate our concerns so they can be heard without judgement. 


We actually have less influence to the extent that we need to control people and situations.  Control can build frustration which leads to giving up or rebellion. Letting go frees us to see people and situations more clearly and to respond in ways that helps patrons learn appropriate authority and responsibility.  When we control, we are responsible. Controlling others takes responsibility away from them.  HTC patrons learn responsibility by being responsible. 


Empowerment is often an incremental process that involves give and take along with constant adjustment and fine-tuning.  Details cannot be planned in advance or from a distance.  They must be worked out in interaction with those we serve.  HTC has evolved by trying things out, talking about them, making adjustments and trying again.  This gives the patrons an investment in the program.  Ownership builds enthusiasm, energy and motivation.  There is a decreased sense of investment and ownership to the extent that someone else in is control.



We cannot focus on being helpful to others to the extent that we are focusing on ourselves.  A person who is self-centered has difficulty understanding and responding to another's point of view.  Empowerment is a collaborative partnership.  Ego says "me first."  That means others are secondary and less important. 


Empowerment is a process of adapting and adjusting.  When undermine empowerment to the extent we think "know what's best" for others without checking it out.  Empowerment is not "me doing something to or for someone else" - it is a process of learning and sharing where we need to acknowledge our limitations and uncertainty.                  

                                              HARD TIMES CAFE CULTURE


A culture affects how we do things, what we value and what we are about.  Culture sets the context for how we relate to each other and how we carry out our daily activities.  It defines how we work, interact and make decisions.  A culture that promotes empowerment for disadvantaged people is different from the culture of human services and the traditional western culture in many ways.  HTC has created an intentional culture that attempts to create an atmosphere where disadvantaged people can discover their gifts and talents and work together to improve themselves and their community.  The values, goals, principles and mission statement that were approved by patrons early in the program form the basis for the HTC culture.  Additional components and characteristics that have become part of the way we operate are listed below.



HTC is organized and structured to include everyone who is going through hard times and wants to improve their lives.  The consensus decision making process insures that there are no minority opinions that are discarded when the majority gets its way.  Every patron has something to contribute.  Our challenge is to discover and recognize each patron's gifts and potential contribution.  Every patron is responsible for the teams they work on and for the program as a whole. Everyone has a voice and opportunity to propose new activities or changes. 



Empowerment requires openness.  Every patron has access to information about any part of the program with the exception of principle violations that involve personal matters.  Problems, conflicts and mistakes are dealt with openly with an accepting attitude.  Negative feedback is not held back but is seen as part of the learning process.  Proposals that have a major effect on the program are introduced months in advance to give everyone a chance to think and talk it over. 


No patron has authority over another

This is an unwritten rule that is built into the structure of HTC.  It insures inclusion, help build cooperation and community and prevents a lot of conflicts.  It can be difficult to handle power and authority when people have experienced a lack of authority for much of their lives.  There have been conflicts every time a patron has attempted to grab power, authority or privilege. The best leaders at HTC have emerged through hard work and commitment that gains the respect of patrons. 


Deal with problems immediately

The HTC approach to problems since the beginning of the program has been to deal with them immediately.  This keeps them from growing and festering and helps maintain a positive focus in the program.  There are many times when it seems that very important things need to be done and dealing with problems (which are uncomfortable anyway) can wait.  However, the HTC approach has been to drop everything and deal with patron conflicts first.  The success of the program depends on cooperation and trust among the patrons and between patrons and staff. 


Our experience has been that rumors can spread like wildfire at HTC.  Dealing with every conflict openly and respectfully as it occurs keeps everyone on track and builds the sense of community and cooperation that is so essential to HTC.  Resolving conflicts immediately is also an important teaching tool - patrons who adopt this style will be more successful in their family and work life.


Everyone is responsible

HTC patrons learn responsibility by being responsible.  A new patron coming in for the first time has as much say and responsibility as anyone at the meeting.  Responsibility keeps us focused and grounded.  Our decisions and opinions matter.  We are forced to listen to others and see what is best for the whole.  Responsibility also significantly reduces complaints.  If a patron does not like something, they can vote against it or offer an alternative.


It is often easier and quicker to bypass a patron vote and have staff finish the job.  This takes away responsibility and learning opportunities from the patrons.  Part of teaching responsibility is to give clear, well-thought-out feedback to patron ideas.  We do not learn responsibility by doing whatever we want but by carefully sorting out what is most important and anticipating potential problems. 


Avoid blame

When there are mistakes, conflicts or difficulties, there is a tendency to look for who is at fault.  HTC avoids this by immediately focusing on what can be done to fix the problem and to prevent it from happening in the future.  Focusing on these questions helps deal with the most important issues while sidestepping all of the negative feelings that go along with blame. 


Prevent problems from recurring

HTC takes a systems view in dealing with problems and conflicts.  We try to look at the whole picture and explore how problems can be prevented or can be dealt with more effectively in the future.  This takes time and there is a cost in terms of other things not getting done but we believe this investment has paid off in terms of the sense of community and belonging that has developed and the increased opportunities for discussion and input from patrons. 


Learn from mistakes

Learning from mistakes requires us to be humble and courageous enough to acknowledge our limitations.  Focusing on the long term allows us to see our problems and blunders and learning experiences and to move forward rather than getting repeatedly stuck.  This also requires openness and creativity as well as a willingness to accept negative feedback and positive suggestions.


Incremental Planning

Although HTC has always had long term vision of how the program will develop, new developments occur incrementally.  Once a new system or project is implemented, we take a look at the program as a whole to get a sense of the next best step.  Often new systems and projects go through a number of revisions before they become part of the way HTC operates.  We invite input long before decisions are made as well as after they are implemented to insure that the growth of the program fits with the needs and potential of the patrons.

                               HARD TIMES CAFE APPROACH TO TRAINING


Hands-on, learn by doing

There are no classrooms at HTC.  Many of our patrons did not do well in school and find it difficult to learn in that type of setting.  HTC emphasizes "hands-on" training where patrons learn by doing. 


Real work that takes place in real time

HTC does not use simulations.  Teams operate businesses and carry out administrative functions that directly affect the success of the program.  This helps build responsibility and lends a seriousness to the decision making process.  Patrons learn to anticipate the consequences of their decisions and to estimate potential costs and benefits of their actions. 


Immediate, direct and ongoing feedback

HTC coaches provide oversight and feedback for all program operations.  Staff are responsible for helping patrons make good decisions by asking questions and providing feedback that stimulates careful discussion and analysis.  Patrons receive regular feedback on work habits and job skills through the POI rating system.  Patrons are aware of their strengths and challenges and have a sense of what they need to learn and why.


Individualized instruction, facilitation, and oversight provided as needed

The amount a coach intervenes in a patron's training depends on what is needed at that time. HTC teams make decisions about priorities and assignments with input and suggestions from staff who are responsible for providing oversight to point out potentially serious mistakes and to insure accuracy and timeliness when necessary.   Training approaches will vary with individual patrons and depending on the needs of the situation.


Clear, immediate incentives

HTC patrons have clear, immediate incentives for improving work habits and job skills through the POI rating system.  If they are conscientious and make an honest effort to improve, they see the results of their performance immediately in the POI they earn and the necessities they can obtain.  POI ratings are calculated weekly.  HTC patrons do not have to wait until the end of the semester or training program to receive feedback or awards.


Opportunities to be immediately productive

Patrons who have skills in specific areas have opportunities to be immediately productive.  They do not have to complete a sequential training program that teaches skills they have already mastered.  Coaches work closely with patrons to determine their skills levels and suggest assignments to the team that match the appropriate training level.


Peer decision making and support process

HTC patrons do not work or learn in isolation.   They immediately become an integral part of a strong peer support process.  The consensus decision making process insures a sense of inclusion and belonging.  New patrons are introduced to others who have "been there" in terms of working through similar experiences.  They receive support and encouragement in dealing with stress and family issues that have the potential of derailing traditional training efforts.


Opportunities for peer training

Often the best way to learn something really well is to teach it to someone else.  Also it can be easier to learn from a peer who has been through the same learning process.  HTC takes advantage of every opportunity for patrons to learn from other patrons.  Coaches insure that the training is appropriate and effective and provide input and suggestions as needed.


Participants have clear choices and responsibility for outcomes

HTC patrons choose how, where and when they participate on work teams and are responsible for the performance of that team.  Every patron has a say in decisions that affect the program as a whole and every patron is responsible for the effects of those decisions.   HTC patrons are not simply asked for input, they have authority over team activities and overall program operations.


Individualized learning pace

HTC patrons decide what they want to learn and when they want to learn it. This helps insure that they are ready to learn.  Patrons can drop out of a team or the program and return according to their needs and situation.  HTC certifications will be based on competency not on length of training.  Those who pick things up quickly, earn certifications quickly.  Those who choose to take more time for any reason, take the time that is needed to demonstrate competency.


Emphasis on building and sustaining basic work habits

The foundation of HTC training is to develop the basic work habits that every employer is looking for.  This insures that HTC patrons can get and keep a job.  Patrons are rated on these skills every week and often receive daily feedback on their performance.  The emphasis is on developing habits that become automatic when they get a regular job.


Opportunities to develop and practice thinking, planning and organizing skills

People who have been out of work for long periods of time and have few resources have limited reason or opportunities to plan, organize or think things through.  The HTC decision making and self-managing team process stimulates thinking, planning, discussion and problem solving.


Each participant learns teamwork and organization skills

All patron activities are organized around the self-managing team process.  Since teams make decisions by consensus, patrons learn to listen to and work with others.  Nothing happens at HTC unless patrons work together.  The team process also requires a high degree of organization because different patrons will be working on the same task at different times. 


Reinforces work ethic and commitment to continuous improvement

The one word that best summarized what HTC is about is "improvement."  Every part of the program exists in order to help disadvantaged people make lasting improvements in their lives.  The goal is for improvement to become a habit.  There is regular and frequent positive feedback and incentives for maintaining a positive work ethic and commitment to improvement.  The HTC certification process is being designed so that patrons have clear incentives to continue to take on new challenges and develop new skills.



Opportunities to learn effective communication, problem solving and conflict resolution

Some HTC patrons have little experience in effective communication, problem solving and conflict resolution.  Many patrons have significant ongoing stressors in their lives.  Disagreements, frustration and conflicts are part of the program.  Many of them are prevented through the team process, coaches early interventions and patrons commitment and regular discussion about HTC values and principles.  However, when problems do arise, patrons are responsible for working it out with coaches and, at times, elders assistance.  If a conflict involves a team then the whole team needs to work it out. Patrons learn these skills by practicing them and seeing them practiced.


Opportunities to gain experience in leadership and public speaking

The self-managing team process and weekly meeting provide a lot of opportunities for patrons to express their opinions and concerns.  The most effective leaders and speakers among the patrons have tended to emerge from those who where quiet and withdrawn when they first joined the program.  It is important for coaches to provide regular feedback and reinforcement for patrons who speak well and demonstrate leadership potential.                

                                                 HTC STANDING OVATION


The first HTC meeting started with a standing ovation.  This was preceded by a challenge to recognize that every person deserved some appreciation for their struggle and effort and that everyone has gifts and potential that are often forgotten or hidden during hard times.  Patrons then show their appreciate to the volunteers who prepared the meal and to children with separate standing ovations.


The standing ovation sums up what HTC is all about in many ways.  Its function is to recognize and energize (the fact that it wakes everyone up after a big meal before the meeting start helps too.)  The ovations helps patrons to realize their own strengths and the power of coming together.  It gives them an opportunity to show appreciation for those who work to help them and those who they care for.  It is an energetic celebration of the gifts and potential that are present at this meeting.


Usually the facilitator gives a brief introduction to the standing ovation and one of the patrons who has a loud booming voice counts to three when all patrons jump out of their chairs and make an much noise as possible.  It is helpful to try to build some drama for this.  Comments to make sure they have elbow room and that their coffee is out of the way help to build tension once the ovation has been announced.  A reminder that this ovation is an indication of their worth and that they will be asked to do it again if its not loud enough to match their worth helps free patrons to make as much noise as possible.  Setting a goal of having the lights start to shake from the noise helps build the energy.  Give permission to hoot, hollar and whistle.  The goal is to make as much noise as possible.


Sample  introduction to the standing ovation

"Its easy to lose track of something really important when we're under hard times.  When trouble is pressing in on us all we tend to see is trouble.  When frustration and loss tug at our hearts we can start to think that frustration and loss ARE our lives.  HOWEVER, each person walked in here with something special.  Many of you might not be aware of it - that happens during hard times.  But each person here has a special gift that is their own potential.  Everyone has something to offer but the only way to uncover that is to recognize it.  Everyone needs to look inside.  There is something there waiting to come out.  HTC is all about working together to bring it out in everyone.  Hard times also strengthen us.  Hard times can help us realize what is really important in life.  We need to celebrate and appreciate this special part of every person here.  Lots of people have worked hard to make this program grow and they deserve appreciation for that too. But this celebration is for what is inside each and every person in this room and what we can accomplish by putting our hearts and our minds together. 


We need to prepare for this and do it right because its very important.  Push your chairs back a bit, make sure no one get knocked over and that your coffee is in the middle of the table.  Because this is going to be a rip roaring, roof raising standing ovation.  Its got to be to match the worth and potential of all you people.  Is everybody ready? ... Is anyone not ready?...  Count it out!!!"

                                                                      Part 3




$                                  Organizational chart


$                                  Elders


$                                  Self-managing team process


$                                  List of teams and functions


$                                  Lines of authority


$                                  Weekly meeting


$                                  Decision making


$                                  Election process


                                                                              HARD TIMES CAFE ELDERS


Responsibility of Elders

HTC Elders have been given authority by the patrons to set the agenda for the weekly meeting and to deal with violations of HTC values and principles.  The elders have this authority only when they meet as a group - no individual Elder has any more authority than any other patron.  Elders also serve on the HTC Board of Trustees which has legal responsibility for the corporation.  Nine Elders are elected by consensus of the patrons (at least 4 must be male and 4 female)


Elders serve the patrons

Elders do not run HTC.  Their job is to represent the patrons is setting the agenda and dealing with serious principle violations.  The most important thing for an elder is to listen to the patrons and be in touch with their needs and concerns.  The elders serve the weekly meal as a reminder of their role.


Elders are leaders

HTC elders are NOT leaders who tell others what to do.  They lead by example which means volunteering when help is needed and being a model for the principles and values.  HTC uses the term "elder" because the term implies wisdom and experience.  We did not use words like managers or directors because the patrons as a whole manage and direct the program.





‘    Good Listener, easy to talk to

‘    Team player, thinks about what's best for the whole program.

‘    Serves as a model for following the HTC values and principles.

‘    Asks questions, wants to know what other people think.

‘    Seeks other peoples opinions even if they are different from their own.

‘    Believes everyone can improve.

‘    Open minded and humble.

‘    Will speak up and express themselves clearly and respectfully even when it might be uncomfortable.

‘    Takes a long term view, is patient.

‘    Is able to separate personal feelings from doing what is best for HTC or an individual patron.

‘    Sets an example- volunteering/helping






‘    Likes to be the center of attention.

‘    Talks more than they listen.

‘    "Know-it-All"

‘    Is reactive or short tempered- acts without thinking.

‘    Has a big ego, seeks praise and special attention.

‘    Makes assumptions.

‘    Labels others.

‘    Like to have authority and power.

‘    Impatient, in a hurry.

‘    Holds onto strong opinions.

‘    Never changes their mind.

‘    Likes to tell others what to do.

‘    Won't volunteer to help out when needed.

‘    Complains to others instead of bringing concerns directly to the person involved.












There are two elders meetings held on Thursday afternoon before the weekly meeting.  The first meeting sets the agenda for the weekly meeting.  The second, deals with principle violations.  Occasionally, there is a separate meeting scheduled to deal with particular issues or to clear up items that have not been dealt with during regular meetings.


Setting the agenda

The board chair has no special authority during elders meetings.  It is best for a coach to facilitate the elders meeting.  The coach can maintain neutrality and has the skills to keep the focus on the topic at hand.  It is important to keep to the structure for the meeting.  Given the issues that are dealt with, it is very easy for this meeting to go over time.  We have found that the extra time has not resulted in better decisions.  All votes during elder meetings must be unanimous.


‘    Facilitator records attendance, brings in alternate elders if needed and opens the meeting.  Go around the table with each elder in turn giving their input for the meeting.  This includes: names for the moment of silence, announcement, discussion topic, proposals and elder discussion items.  This is not the time to bring up principle violations.  That is handled at the second meeting.  Facilitator writes each item on various pages of the elder agenda.


‘    Facilitator adds their own input.


‘    Facilitator reviews announcements and gets consensus (unanimous support) for putting them in the agenda.


‘    Review of discussion topic and vote.


‘    Elder discussion:

‘  elders chooses which item to discuss first and each in turn.

‘  Proposals need exact wording.

‘  It is very important that proposals be thought through thoroughly before they are added to the agenda.  This is an important role for the facilitator whose job it is to ask questions that help elders to see the cost/benefit, long term consequences, and ways each proposal fits with past decisions and where the program is at this time.  If elders are opposed to a proposal, it generally should not be brought to the patrons.  If there is an issue that needs to be addressed but there is not a consensus proposal, the elders may choose to set it on the agenda as a discussion only issue and allow proposals to come from the patrons.

‘  Proposals left over from previous meetings are reviewed.  Each proposal on the agenda is read for accuracy.  Consensus is needed to put each proposal on the agenda.

‘  Elders determine the order of the proposals to be discussed.  This is recorded on the agenda sheet.

‘  Elders usually take a 10 minute break when the agenda is complete.

                                                                                  Elders meetings (cont)

Principle violations

The elders were designated as the disciplinary committee by the patrons in the first months of the program.  Staff are the first point of contact for dealing with principle violations as they occur.  However, only the elders have the authority to set consequences for violations of the HTC values and principles.  This meeting is confidential since it deals with patron's personal issues.  Elders may not discuss information shared during this meeting after it is over.


1.    Facilitator asks each elder in turn around the table to add items to the agenda.


2.    Elders determine which item is first/next by consensus.


3.    Elder or staff who brought the issue up describes the concern.  If staff are not aware of the concern it is usually best to have the coach deal with it first unless it is a serious or repeated offense.


4.    The focus in dealing with these concerns is NOT to determine an appropriate punishment.  The focus is on what can be done to help the patron follow the principles in the future.  It is important for the facilitator to ask how each possible intervention might be helpful to the patron involved and to have the elders consider how the patrons involved might best learn from this experience.


5.    There is a limited general discussion.  If it is not moving toward a solution, the facilitator asks the elders to go around the table and offer options on how the deal with the situation.  It is usually best for the facilitator to not suggest options but very helpful to ask lots of questions which lead the elders to discover appropriate options.


6.    The Principles that were violated are listed.


7.    The Elders may or may not decided to bring the patron in to discuss the concern.  In most cases this is helpful.  It is important not to get into a lengthy discussion of what happened or whether the patron was really involved.  The issue is to provide evidence to the elders that the identified principles will be followed in the future.  If the patron believes they did not violate the principle in the first place then it should be easy for them to show the elders that they are sincere in wanting to follow the principle in the future.  The concepts of guilty or innocent are not part of the discussion. The appearance of a principle violation requires reassurance that things are moving in a positive direction.


8.    Elders choose an appropriate response to the principle violation.  It is often best to go around the table for this discussion and vote.  If there is a disagreement, the positions are summarized and the elders are reminded that every elder must support the decision. 


9.    Elders choose how best to inform the patron of the decision.  Sometimes they are brought into the meeting at that time.  Other times it is more appropriate for the facilitator or coach to meet privately with the patron in the company of an elder.

                                                               HTC SELF-MANAGING TEAM PROCESS


The HTC self-managing team process has been tested and  fine-tuned for over five years.  The same structure and process is used for all HTC teams.


Types of teams

There are three programs within HTC: Operations includes teams that carry out the basic activities of the program such as accounting, office support, the HTC internal store etc.; Business teams operate HTC businesses and Service teams are designed to assist patrons in responding to needs such as housing or transportation or in finding a job or returning to school.  Service teams were not active at the time this manual was written.


There are three levels of teams within each program.  Program planning teams (Operations Planning Team (OPT), Partners) make decisions which involve more than one team within the program.  Individual planning teams such as the Togg Shoppe team in the business program or the Office Support Team in the operations program, set policies for that operation and manage and determine long term priorities, scheduling etc.  Daily work teams are made up of whoever is working on that team on a given shift.  Each working team meets at the beginning of the shift to determine priorities and assignments for that shift.


The Operations Planning Team (OPT) team is made up of two members from each of the operations teams.  OPT makes decisions that affect more than one operations team.  Individual operations teams such as Accounting or the Office Support team meet regularly (usually weekly) to set policy and plan their activities.  Team members who are working on any given shift meet at the beginning of that shift to make decisions about priorities and assignments.



The Business Planning Team (previously called Partners) makes decisions that affect one or more HTC businesses.  (There is a proposal for this team to be made up of 2 to 3 members from each business team - Partners are currently elected at the weekly meeting.)  Individual business planning teams, such as the Togg Shoppe Planning Team, are made up of patrons who work in that business.  These teams meet regularly to set policy and make decisions about business operations.  Each business has its own process for appointing or electing patrons to the planning team.  Any patron who works at a business of a given shift is a member of the daily work team.  The work teams meet at the beginning of each shift to set priorities and make assignments.


Policy and Procedures

Policies and procedures for each team are the sum of decisions made by that team.  Policies and procedures that affect more that one team are made by the Operations or Business Planning teams. 


Decision making

All HTC team decisions must be unanimous.  This means that a proposal is only passed if no member opposes it.  If one member opposes the proposal they are asked to state their reasons and to offer a counter proposal.


Team meetings

The agenda for team meetings is listed below.  Coaches facilitate these meetings and record the minutes using a template on the word processor of the notebook computer.  Copies of the minutes are given to each team member and are available to any patron that requests them.


It is highly recommended that team meetings be limited to one hour.  This requires that the coach keep the focus on one topic at a time. It is helpful to remind team members of the time limits a number of times during the meeting and to intervene quickly when the discussion gets extended too far away from the topic.  Holding short, efficient meetings keeps the patrons involved and gives them a sense of accomplishment.  Two and three hour meetings can leave patrons (and coaches) exhausted and frequently accomplish less than shorter, more efficient meetings.  Agenda items that are not completed are copied over to the next meetings agenda. 


Program Planning and Individual Team Meeting Structure:

10.  Coach records attendance on notebook computer template, saves in team folder with the file name listed as the current date

11.  Set Agenda

a.  Coach asks each team member for input - referred to as "going around the table" These are entered on the notebook computer as they are given.

b.  Coach offers suggestions for the agenda and adds to the list

12.  Team members choose first agenda item by consensus.  There is a brief discussion of priorities if there is not agreement on an agenda item.

13.  Discussion / Proposals / Amendments

a.  Team members raise their hands to speak.  Coach calls on first hand raised.   Patrons speak in turn according to the order in which they raised their hands (it might be helpful to jot this down to help remember the order)

b.  If there is a lot of discussion or if the discussion does not seem to be moving toward a conclusion, it is helpful to go "around the table."  Each patron in turn expresses their opinion and holds their thoughts until it is their turn.

c.  Coach records brief summary of discussion points in the minutes.

d.  Proposals are typed into the minutes.

14.  Coach asks if anyone is opposed to the proposal.  (Asking for opposition first insures that those opposed do not hesitate to vote if they see everyone else is in favor.)

15.  Coach asks all in favor to raise their hand (Need consensus to pass) Result of vote is entered in minutes.

16.  Team members choose next agenda item (repeat 3-5)

17.  Assignments are recorded on the minutes as they are agreed upon by the team.


Daily Work Teams Meeting Structure   (Decisions by consensus of those present)

1.    Evaluation and review

a.  Team evaluates the work area and tasks to be done

b.  Team members share ideas, needs, problems, concerns.

2.    Decisions are made about goals and priorities for the day/shift

3.    Assignments are entered on the team form.

4.    Accomplishments are listed on planning form throughout the day.

Team organization and notebooks

Team members often leave to take jobs with little notice.  New members will join a team in any given week.  Many team members will be carrying out the same tasks.  It is extremely important that team operations be well organized.  Each team has its own filing space.  Coaches must insure that all materials are filed away whenever a team member leaves the office even if they are returning the next day.  With as many as a dozen or more patrons from as many as five teams working in the office on any given day, chaos can grow and spread very quickly.


Each team uses a consistent filing structure so that patrons moving to another team are already somewhat familiar with the organization of that team.  Each team selects two secretaries who are responsible for insuring that filing is up to date. (This does not mean they are responsible for doing it - just making sure that it is done)

Team notebooks are an important way to track and store team information.  The first section provides a description of the team purpose and function followed by a list of team members and how to contact them.  Recent minutes are stored in the notebook along with a section that lists decisions made by that team.  Another section summarizes the team decisions into policy statements.  A list of current projects and priorities is an important part of the notebook along with a section that outlines procedures for how to carry out each regular task the team carries out.(This might be in a separate notebook if there are a number of tasks especially if they involve computer work.)

                                                                        HTC SELF MANAGING TEAMS



$     Partners (not active) responsible for starting new businesses and making decisions that cross businesses.  Elected by patron consensus at weekly meeting.  This team will likely be restructured to be made up of representatives from each business team once other businesses are operating.  It has been recommended that it be renamed the Business Planning Team.


$     Togg Shoppe - 7 members responsible for TS policy and procedures, meets weekly.  Elected by TS workers at monthly meeting.


$     Automotive - planning for auto business - currently under OPT, will operate under Partners or Business Planning Team


$     Used Tool Business - no team established yet



Operations Planning Team (OPT) - makes decisions that cross teams, made up of 2 representatives from each team chosen by those teams.


Accounting - responsible for all accounting operations


Office Support Team (OST) - responsible for all office operations not carried out by other teams (each team is responsible for their own record keeping)


Maintenance Team - responsible for building maintenance and projects - coach must approve all projects before work begins


Store - operates HTC store, meets weekly


Membership - greets new members, handles registration and name tags


Share - used to operate Share program - now meeting to check other ways of helping patrons meet food costs


Fundraising/Activities plans fundraising events and HTC activities


Public Relations not active at this time


Kitchen - assist and learn to prepare weekly meal - coached by Kitchen volunteers


Fun with Friends - assists in children's program that meets during HTC weekly meeting


Clean up - cleans church after weekly meeting - membership varies no meetings, coach Chuck


Personnel - created before patrons turned authority over to program administrator - 4 members elected by patrons - has never been active


Service Teams - Housing, jobs and education, community services etc.  Not active at this time

                                                                       LINES OF AUTHORITY AT HTC

                                                                                     Who Decides What


From the beginning of the program, the patrons present at the weekly meeting have final authority over all decisions at HTC.  Authority has been delegated to teams and staff so the program can operate more smoothly and efficiently and to insure that decisions are made as close to where they must be carried out as possible.


Group or Team

                                     Areas of Authority

Patrons at weekly meeting

(2)  Overall authority for all program operations

(3)  Approve proposals for activities, policies or procedures that potentially affect all patrons

(4)  Decide what to do with program income that has not been designated. (donations, grants, business income)

(5)  Approve budgets for HTC businesses and operations.

(6)  Elect elders, alternate elders, board members, partners

(7)  Approve new teams

(8)  Approve new systems, programs, businesses and activities.

(9)  Change current systems, programs, businesses or activities.

(10)     Propose changes in bylaws

(11)     Can overturn decisions made by the board or HTC teams

(12)     Can delegate authority to others.



1.    Only have authority during scheduled meetings as a group

2.    Set the agenda for the weekly meeting

3.    Respond to violations of HTC values or principles.


Board of Trustees

1.    Legal responsibility for HTC corporation

2.    Supervise Program Administrator

3.    Set Personnel Policy

4.    Make changes in Bylaws


Program Administrator

1.    Cancel the weekly meeting in case of bad weather

2.    Write grants and seek funding

3.    Schedule HTC training workshops

4.    Hire, supervise and train staff and consultants according to Personnel Policy

5.    Facilitate meetings - keep focus on topic

6.    Give assignments to the Office Support Team

7.    Prepare the annual budget and handle financial management and reporting

8.    Program evaluation

9.    Communicate and collaborate with community agencies and organizations


Staff and Coaches

1.    Facilitate meetings - keep focus on one topic

2.    Provide advice and feedback to teams.

3.    POI ratings

4.    Approve supply and equipment purchases (along with 3 team members)

5.    Approve plans for the maintenance team.


Operations Planning Team


1.    Approve proposals that affect more than one operations team.

2.    Set office budget

3.    Approve purchases by operations teams (except for Store Team purchases for exchange)

4.    Set office policy


Individual Operations        Teams

1.    Set policy and procedures for team operations and activities

2.    Set long term priorities and assignments

3.    Choose team secretary and members to attend OPT meeting.


Partner (Business Planning Team)

1.    Develop new businesses

2.    Make decisions that affect more than one HTC business.


Togg Shoppe Team

1.    Set policy and operating procedures for store

2.    Determine prices, sales, promotions

3.    Plan advertising

4.    Approve purchases within budget approved by patrons.


Daily Work / Shift Teams

1.    Determine needs and priorities for each shift

2.    Make work assignments for each shift


Automotive Team

1.    Set policy and operating procedures for shop that are approved by licensed mechanic on staff.

2.    Determine prices, sales, promotions

3.    Plan advertising

4.    Approve purchases of supplies

5.    Approve vehicle purchases that are recommended by licensed mechanic on staff.


Automotive Shift Teams

1.    Determine needs and priorities for each shift

2.    Make work assignments that are approved by licensed mechanic


                                                                              HTC WEEKLY MEETING


The HTC weekly meeting is where everything begins and ends.  Every Thursday, HTC patrons meet to share a meal, exchange POI for food and personal needs items at the HTC store and for vouchers for necessities, sign up for work, celebrate accomplishments, exchange information and make decisions that affect the program.  New patrons join HTC by attending the weekly meeting where they are greeted by the Membership team and given a brief orientation along with a handout describing how HTC operates. 


The meal is prepared by a group of volunteers from the community.  It is served by elders.  A few HTC patrons assist volunteers in doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen and a group of HTC patrons cleans the area after the meeting is over.


3.    Elders meet at 2:30pm to set agenda


4.    HTC store opens at 3:30 - closes at 5


5.    Patrons sign up for vouchers and work


6.    Meal is served by elders at 4:30 pm, Facilitators serve coffee

1.  Reminders of meeting times for adults and children

2.  Children must stay with parents until meetings begin

3.  Short prayer said by patron before meal is served


7.    Fun with Friends program for children 3 to 15 begins at 5:15


8.    Give 3-5 minutes notice that meeting will begin


9.    Meeting begins at 5:20 pm

1.  Welcome new patrons and visitors

2.  Introduce standing ovation - HTC focuses on each person's special gifts and potential - We need to celebrate and appreciate this on a regular basis in order to keep that as our focus

3.  Standing ovations- Patron counts to 3

1.    For patrons

2.    For kitchen crew

3.    For Children

4.  Recognition and Celebration

1.    Jobs - applause for each person

2.    School - applause for each person

3.    Everyone who worked with HTC during previous week - group applause

4.    Birthdays - sing happy birthday 1 x for all birthdays

5.    Anniversaries - applause for each couple

6.    Other reasons to celebrate - applause for each incident

5.  Jokes - patrons earn 1 POI for joke that is clean and gets a laugh

6.  Announcements -

1.    Moment of silence

2.    Read from elders agenda,

3.    Ask if patrons have any other announcements

7.  Proposals

1.    Read proposal - open to discussion in order of hands raised

2.    Amendments are handled separately

1.    Discussion stops on original proposal ("on the shelf")

2.    Discussion, then vote on amendment (same voting procedure as regular proposal)

3.    Amendment becomes part of original proposal - (important to write this down!!!) Newly amended proposal is read

3.    Voting

1.    first ask if anyone opposed

1.    if one person opposed, they state reasons which are then discussed by the group

2.    can offer a counter proposal - if passed, it replaces the original proposal, if fails voting continues

3.    if two patrons oppose proposal does not pass.

2.    Ask patrons who support to raise their hands

3.    Proposal passes if one or no one is opposed and if there is support.

8.  Discussion Topic

10.  Meeting ends at 6:30

11.  Clean up crew cleans area

12.  Vouchers handed out.

                                                                          DECISION MAKING AT HTC


Decision making process at the weekly meeting:

1.    Proposal from agenda set by elders is read to the patrons

2.    Discussion on proposal, opportunities for amendments

a.  If amendment is offered, only amendment is discussed

b.  Follow same process for proposal

3.    Anyone can postpone vote for 1 meeting one time

4.    Facilitator asks if anyone is opposed

5.    If two patrons are opposed it does not pass (This was added in the first year of the program when there was one patron who voted against everything)

6.    If one patron opposed, they offer reasons or amendment.

7.    Vote again on original proposal

8.    If one still opposed, can offer counter-proposal

9.    If counter-proposal fails, original proposal passes.

10.  All in favor of  the proposal raise their hands to indicate support


Changing proposals that have been passed at an earlier weekly meeting:

Proposals made at the weekly meeting pass if less than two patrons are opposed. Proposals that have already passed cannot be brought up for another vote. Once a proposal has passed it can only be changed if a new proposal that changes it is passed by consensus


An example of this was the highway cleanup.  Patrons approved a proposal to do the highway cleanup in 1992.  In 1998 a few patrons decided they didn't want to do it anymore and wanted to bring up a proposal to continue highway cleanup, thinking that if two of them voted against it, HTC would stop doing highway cleanup.  However, they needed to make a proposal that changed the current policy, so their proposal had to be to end the highway cleanup.  Since only a few patrons voted against this, it did not pass and highway cleanup continued.  It takes consensus to put a proposal into place and consensus to change it. If decisions did not work this way, any two patrons could eliminate any part of the program. 


Any decision made by HTC teams, elders or the Board of Trustees can be overturned by consensus of the patrons. The proposal must state that a decision is being overturned.  The decision to  overturn passes only if less than two patrons oppose it.  If it worked the other way, any two patrons could undo decisions that were made anywhere in the program.  This would undermine the consensus process. 


The same process applies to decisions made by HTC teams.  A previous decision can only be changed by passing a proposal states that the decision is being overturned.  Team members cannot make proposals to continue what is already been passed.


Open meetings

During open meetings there is no agenda.  Whoever raises their hand first has access to the floor.  They can make an announcement, ask a question, make a comment or offer a proposal.  If a proposal if offered, it is handled the same way as during a regular weekly meeting.  The elders try to schedule an open meeting at least every six weeks to two months.



Elder decisions

Elder decisions can only be made a scheduled elders meetings.  Elders have no authority outside of these meetings.  Elder decisions must be unanimous - if any elder opposes the proposal, it does not pass.  The staff person who is facilitating the meeting may request that discussion go "around the table"  - this means that each elder in turn states their opinion and then there is a vote. 


Team decisions

Team decisions must be made a regular team meetings unless other arrangements have been passed by the team. (For example, the Togg Shoppe team decided that three team members could set prices on certain days).  Team proposals do not pass if there is one team member at the meeting who is opposed.  The same discussion and amendment process applies as during the HTC weekly meeting.  At some point in the discussion, the coach who facilitates the meeting may request that discussion go "around the table" - this means that each team member in turn states their opinion and then there is a vote.


Daily or shift work teams

The patrons working on a team on any given day or shift make up the team for that day.   These decisions must be unanimous.  They review their responsibilities, identify what needs to be accomplished that day and set priorities and assignments.  Each team has a form they use to record these decisions.  When team members have completed their assignments, they initial it on the daily form.  Some teams also have a form that is used to evaluate the workplace and helps to identify needs and priorities.

                                                                            HTC ELECTION PROCESS


The HTC election process is used primarily to elect elders with 3 positions filled every 4 months. The process is designed to make sure that each person is elected by consensus of all patrons without minority opposition and insures that all patrons have opportunities to get involved.


Prior to The Election:

1.    Nominations are requested at least one week before the election is scheduled.  All nominees are given handouts to use in preparing a speech for the election.  Any elder who has served 30 consecutive months is not eligible for re-election.


2.    Electing three positions usually takes the whole meeting.  Most often there are not other proposals on the agenda on regular election nights.


3.    Before elections patrons are reminded of the duties and expectations of a position. (there are two handouts for elder elections).  New nominations are added to the list which is written on the chalkboard.  Since there must be at least 4 male and 4 female elders, there is a reminder about limitations if the balance has been changed by elders completing their terms.  Elders whose terms are ending are thanked and show appreciation. 


4.    Each nominee is asked to respond to the following questions:

a.  How have you improved since coming to Hard Times Cafe?

b.  What have you accomplished that has helped HTC?

c.  What would you like HTC to be like next year at this time?


5.    Patrons are given time to ask questions of the candidates.


The Election Process:

One position is filled at a time.  If there must be a male or female elected to maintain balance, that position is filled last.  The same process is used for each vacancy. All names are written on the board.  Patrons vote once each round.  Starting from the top name, patrons vote for the candidate of their choice by raising their hand.  The candidate(s) with the lowest total of votes has an X placed by their name and is removed from the voting for that position.  Another round of voting takes place starting from the bottom of the list. This process continues until there is one name left on the list. It is helpful to have 2 or 3 staff or volunteers count votes.


Two names can be removed from the list if their total does not add up to the next highest vote total.  For example, if one patron has 2 votes and another 1 vote and the next highest total is 4 votes, patrons with 2 and 1 vote can be removed. - this saves some time and does not effect the outcome.  However, patrons need to be reminded how this works. 


Patrons are asked if anyone is opposed to the person who remains on the list becoming an elder.  If there is opposition, they must state reasons and the same process is followed as with a regular HTC proposal.  If no one is opposed, all patrons in favor are asked to raise their hands and the patron elected is congratulated.


                                                                                                Part 4


                                                                           Points of Improvement System


$               Overview POI


$              What POI ratings mean


$              Ratings process


$              Ratings form


$              Ratings notes


$              POI exchange options


$              Tracking procedures

                                             OVERVIEW: HTC POINTS OF IMPROVEMENT SYSTEM


HTC patrons earn Points of Improvement (POI) at an hourly rate based on their performance in the following areas:




Early for work or appointments                                 

Has good hygiene, is clean and appropriately dressed for the job.

Follows directions well, asks questions if needed.

Is friendly, courteous and cooperative.

Plans and organizes work.

Is aware of safety concerns, works carefully.

Works at a steady pace. Appropriate speed for the job.

Can start work on own, works independently.

Proper documentation.

Open to input, listens to others.

Good public relations.

Follows through finishes job or shift.

Expresses thoughts and ideas clearly


Follows HTC principles

Quality of Work




All items are rated on a 5 point scale based on the expectations of performance in a work setting.   5 = outstanding, exceptional performance, 4 = very good performance, employer might be thinking about  a raise; 3 = employer would be generally satisfied; 2 = there is room for improvement; 1 = there is a definite need for improvement; 0 = serious problems were evident.


Patrons are considering a proposal where patrons will earn bonus POI for earning certifications for specific skill areas and for training other patrons. 


POI can be exchanged for food or personal needs items donated to the HTC store or for products available through HTC businesses.  They can also be exchanged for vouchers for necessities that have been approved by patrons.  These include housing, transportation, food, medical needs etc.  The value of vouchers are calculated using an exchange rate based on the ratio between the total POI earned during a given week and the amount of money available that week.


Vouchers are signed by the patron once at the HTC meeting and again when presented to the local business in exchange for merchandise.  They are consecutively numbered and signed by a HTC staff person.  Vouchers for rent, utilities and etc. are paid by HTC directly to the vendor.  All vendors are sent checks before vouchers are redeemed.

                                                                                  WHAT POI RATINGS MEAN


Occasionally, some patrons have said they're frustrated about "getting low grades" or being "marked down" or "knocked down" on ratings for work habits while working on HTC teams.  This handout was put together to clarify exactly how the ratings work and what their purpose is.


You Earn what you Learn

There is no base rate or minimum rate for earning POI while working at HTC. There is no minimum wage in POI like in regular job. In fact POI are not a wage at all.  They are points that are awarded for making improvements.  POI are only earned for work habits that are listed on the ratings form.  You earn POI for whatever part of that work habit you have done during that week. When the certification system is put into place, you will also be able to earn POI for learning job skills and for training other patrons.


Every Rating Starts at 0

Scores of 1 or 2 point out areas where there is room for or need for improvement.  A rating of 3 is what you would earn if you were doing the same work at a regular job and the boss was generally satisfied with your work habits.  A rating of 4 means that your boss would be very happy with your work habits and 5 means that what you did was outstanding.  3 is simply the middle number, it is not a base rate that you are rated down from.


The Purpose of the Ratings (and everything else at HTC) is Improvement

HTC bylaws say the purpose of HTC is to "provide opportunities for disadvantaged people to work together to meet basic needs while developing skills, habits and motivation that lead to regular employment."


HTC exists to help people get back on their feet so they can get and keep a good paying job.  It is a fact that some patrons may not be interested in working at this time due to age, physical disabilities or other reasons. Many of these patrons have been very helpful to the program and HTC welcomes them.  They help serve as role models for others who need to be able to get a good job.  The ratings provide feedback on how they are doing as role models.


POI are Awards, Not a Wage

HTC Points of Improvement are awarded for making improvements and for showing positive work habits.  A rating of 1 indicates there is something positive happening - probably not enough to be able to keep a good job, but something positive nonetheless.  POI are not income and there is no minimum rate like a minimum wage.  Earning POI is not like doing piecework where if you work faster or slower you earn more or less than minimum wage.  POI are awards for making improvements in work habits (and job skills when certification starts).  You earn what you learn.  The purpose of ratings is not to downgrade but to help patrons to upgrade work habits.  What you get depends on how you do. 

                                                                                      POI RATINGS PROCESS


The sixteen items that are rated for each team member are organized into four categories.

       Personal Skills     Items 1-2         Interpersonal Skills     Items 3-8

       Work habits                      Items 9-13       Work attitude               Items 14-16

Ratings are intended to provide an objective indication of what an employer might expect from an typical employee.  They reflect actual performance without taking into account conditions or circumstances.  A patron with disabilities might not be able to work at a steady pace because they need to take frequent breaks due to health concerns.  This would be reflected in the ratings so that future employers gain an accurate picture of what they can expect from a patron. 



Thursday                       Patrons pick up ratings form for each team they will work on during the next week.  Previous week's forms are turned in by placing them in the appropriate coaches folder at the weekly meeting.  These forms list days and hours worked on side one and accomplishments on side two.


Friday - Monday           Staff complete ratings for each patron on each team they coach.


Tuesday - Wednesday  Office Support Team (OST) enters ratings and POI exchange for previous week on computer spreadsheets and prints new totals for Thursdays meeting, HTC store and HTC businesses.


Ratings notes form

Coaches carry ratings notes forms (see next page) with them throughout the week to track information that is helpful in making accurate ratings.  A separate form is used for each team.  Coaches note daily score for on time and appropriate dress and jot notes that will be helpful in scoring each patron's performance.  It is very helpful to share these notes with patrons when the incident that affects the ratings takes place.  This form is very important to complete so that other coaches can complete ratings if the assigned coach is unable to work when ratings are due.


Sharing ratings with patrons

It is best to complete the ratings form with individual team members and is often helpful to ask the patron to rate their own performance.  The most effective way to handle ratings is to give patrons feedback (both positive and negative) throughout the week and make notes on the ratings form.  A ratings session with a patron usually takes 3 to 7 minutes.  It is important to set a hopeful, optimistic tone and helpful to balance positive and negative feedback.  Low scores can be referred to as challenge areas.  This is a very helpful time to review strengths and potential and to be very specific about what the patron can do to improve their score.


Ratings scale:

5 =       exceptional (to be saved for those really remarkable things)

            4 =       very good (doing more than is expected or required, showing leadership, etc.)

3 =       satisfactory performance if working in this position in a regular paid job (performing duties satisfactorily, as paid employee would be expected to do)

            2 =       room for improvement (areas in which job skills could be improved to be more        employable--not a negative, but rather an area to set goals in)

            1 =       need for improvement (problem area that needs work or new skill to be learned)

            0 =       didn't do anything at all or caused disruption, would likely result in termination if working at a regular job.





Office use only: Total POI earned _____________

(Form date:          Voucher value earned _________

9-13-99)              Kept as POI _________________
                                                                                                           Hard Times Cafe       

                                                                                               Work Habits Assessment Form



Patron Name ___________________________________  Team ____________________________________


Week of ____________Through _____________   Hours to be exchanged for vouchers _______________

                                                                                  If this is left blank, all hours will be kept as POI (Store, TS)


All POI will be kept as POI if number of hours to be held for exchange for vouchers is not listed above. POI can be used at HTC Store or Togg Shoppe







Total for Week

 Forms must be turned in within two weeks of work experience        Date







Complete one form for each team                           Hours Worked










(13)   Early for work or appointments









(14)                 Has good hygiene, is clean and appropriately dressed for the job.










(15)                 Is friendly, courteous and cooperative.









(16)                 Open to input, listens to others.









(17)                 Good public relations.









(18)                 Expresses thoughts and ideas clearly









(19)                 Teamwork









(20)                 Follows HTC principles









Work   Habi t s

(21)                 Plans and organizes work.









(22)                 Can start work on own, works independently.









(23)                 Works at a steady pace. Appropriate speed for the job.









(24)                 Follows through finishes job or shift









(25)                 Quality of Work









At t i tude

(26)                 Follows directions well, asks questions if needed









(27)                 Is aware of safety concerns, works carefully









(28)                 Proper documentation.










                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Total Hourly Rate ________                                                                                                                         

Signature of Coach ________________________________________________            Date_____________________




Name __________________________________________    Team ______________________________________    Week _____________________________


List date, accomplishments and obstacles.  Record time units using a hashmark for each 1/4 hour. Enter total time in last column.  Use additional sheets if needed.








































































































                                                                                                  HTC Team Ratings Notes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Page_____


Team ______________________________              Week of ________ through_________




On Time










































































                                                                                               POI EXCHANGE OPTIONS


There are three ways that POI can be exchanged for necessities.  They can be traded at the HTC store at the weekly meeting for personal needs items or food that has been donated to the program or purchased at commodity prices.  POI can also be exchanged at HTC businesses for goods and services available according to the limitations set by the team that decides policy for that business.  POI can also be exchanged for vouchers for necessities.  POI and voucher dollars can also be transferred between patrons.


HTC Store

The exchange value for personal needs items is set by the Store team.  The team checks retail prices in the area and sets the exchange value at the average non-sale retail price rounded to the nearest 5 cents.  The store team may, at times, place restrictions on the number of items that can be exchanged based on inventory and patron demand.  The HTC Store is open from 3pm to 5 pm on Thursdays when there is a regular weekly meeting.


HTC Businesses

POI can be used at both the Togg Shoppe and the HTC automotive business.  The Togg Shoppe team has set some restrictions on POI exchange: Certain items must be available for sale for a specified period before they can be exchanged for POI.  Also, POI can only be exchanged for items that are considered necessities - defined as necessary for health or employment.  Patrons at the weekly meeting set criteria for exchange for each donated automobile until the automotive business is fully operating.  The process approved in the past was a silent auction for a combination of POI, vouchers or cash with vouchers and cash counting twice as much as POI.  (This is because the minimum exchange rate is 2:1).



POI can be exchanged for vouchers for approximately 60 goods and services available in the community.  Each item approved for voucher use has passed by patron vote at the weekly meeting.  The bylaws state that vouchers can only be used for goods and services that are necessary for health or employment.  Patrons sign up for vouchers at the weekly meeting and receive them after the meeting.  Patrons unable to attend the meeting because of work call the office before noon on Friday to request vouchers.  Emergency vouchers can be written on days other than Thursday if approved by a coach. "Emergency" has been defined as "an unexpected crisis that affects health or employability."  Emergency vouchers are not given out for overdue bills or for the same item two weeks in a row.  Patrons who request emergency vouchers frequently are encouraged to plan their exchanges more carefully.  It is important that staff be consistent in signing emergency vouchers.  They create a lot of extra work for the OST and can interfere with patrons learning important planning skills.


How voucher POI are calculated:

$    Up to 20 hours may be used for vouchers, remaining are kept as POI

$    Voucher hours = ttl hours worked minus hours to be kept as POI (up to 20)

$    Hourly Rate earned = total points awarded on 16 items rated from 0 to .5 points per item

$    Voucher Hours x Hourly Rate earned = total POI earned for week for vouchers


How the exchange rate is calculated:

$    Exchange rate     =              total voucher POI earned for week

                                                $ available that week for vouchers


$ Available for vouchers = donations/grants/ TS profits voted by patrons

                                                            Number of weeks income is spread over**

(** all yearly grants are spread over 52 weeks, decisions about TS profits are made by patron vote at weekly meetings)


Exchange rate stabilization fund

HTC Patrons voted to create a fund that helps keep the exchange rate stable.  If the exchange rate is less than 2:1, the amount that brings the rate below 2:1 is put in the stabilization fund.  If the rate is over 3.5:1, the amount needed to bring it down to 3.5:1 is taken out of the stabilization fund.   


How value  of vouchers awarded is calculated:


$    Voucher POI   Divided by    Exchange rate = Value of vouchers awarded


Example: If a patron earns 100 voucher POI and the exchange rate is 2:1, they are awarded $50 worth of vouchers. (100/2)  If the exchange rate is 2.5:1, they are awarded $40 worth of vouchers. (100/2.5)


$    Amount of voucher ($)    Times   Exchange rate = POI needed for voucher


Example:    if a patron's rent bill is $200, and the exchange rate is 2:1, they will need 400POI for a voucher to pay rent.  If the exchange rate is 2.5:1, they would need 500POI.


Summary of calculations for voucher POI:

Hours worked minus hours kept as POI = Voucher POI

Ttl voucher POI = total of POI set aside for vouchers by all patrons

Program income divided by number of weeks to be spread = $ available

$ available divided by Total Voucher POI  = exchange rate

Exchange Rate times Voucher POI = value of vouchers received


Transferring POI and vouchers

HTC patrons have approved a system where patrons can transfer POI and vouchers back and forth.  The Office Support team has developed a form that is used to record these transfers.  Patrons can also complete an open transfer form.  This form is most often used by couples.  It allows either patron to transfer POI or vouchers from the other's account without need for a signature.

                                                                                           POI TRACKING PROCEDURES



Individual ratings sheets are calculated by the Office Support Team and entered on a computer spreadsheet the totals the POI earned for each patron.  These total are entered on a second spreadsheet that tracks all earnings, transfers and exchanges for each patron.  Summary sheets that indicate each patron's balance in both POI and vouchers are printed for patron inspection at the voucher table at the weekly meeting.  (If patrons do not want others to see their totals, they can request that they be blacked out).  Additional printouts that summarize POI balances are distributed to the Togg Shoppe and store teams.  These spreadsheets can provide summary data if needed.  They are organized so that each month is on a separate spreadsheet with each week on a different page. 


Patrons are encouraged to track their POI awards themselves.  At this time there is not an system for printing out summaries of individual patron awards, transfers and exchanges.  Patrons must notify the Office Support Team of errors in calculations within 30 days.  The only way to check this at this time is to review the weekly sheets.


Patrons also approved that patrons names are taken off the POI records and POI and voucher points are forfeited if we have not heard from them for six months and there is no prior notification that they are returning. 

                                                                                                                   Part 5


                                                                                                        Conflict Resolution


$                                              HTC approach to conflict resolution


$                                              Steps for dealing with patrons conflicts


$                                              Guidelines for elders


$                                              How to intervene

                                                             HTC APPROACH TO CONFLICT RESOLUTION


Patrons come to HTC because they are experiencing hard times.  At any given time a large number of patrons are under a significant amount of stress in their lives. at any given time.  Also, HTC is open to anyone.  There are patrons who suffer from chronic mental illness and who have never had the opportunity to learn or practice conflict resolution in a healthy way.



HTC Principles - the core of the conflict resolution process

Instead of predefined rules and consequences, HTC patrons voted in the first months of the program to define a set of principles that serve as a guideline for behavior and decision making.  These principles, along with the HTC values are written into the bylaws and are reviewed and discussed by patrons on a regular basis.  Whenever there is a conflict, one of the principles has been violated and the response is always on how we can help the patron to understand and respect that principle in the future.


Promote an atmosphere that prevents conflicts and makes it easier to deal with:

HTC works to build an atmosphere of openness, acceptance, respect and trust.  When we are successful at this most conflicts can be prevented and those that do occur can be worked out by openly dealing with them.  It is important to build a track record of honesty, acknowledging mistakes and clearly dealing with problems.  This creates a reservoir of trust that smooths the rough edges that come up when problems arise.  This commitment also helps staff to understand individual patrons along with their strengths and sore spots. This makes it a lot easier to anticipate problems and identify ways to turn conflict situations into learning experiences.


Deal with everything right away

Problems and conflicts tend to get bigger the longer we put off dealing with them.  Small conflicts can snowball and spread if allowed to build momentum.  Dealing with conflicts right away sends a message that every patron is important and that working together is a priority at HTC. 


Avoid judgement, blame and questions that ask "who did/said what?" - never ask why?

The first step in working out a conflict is for those involved to feel accepted and respected.  Focusing on who is at fault or what happens tends to feed the flames and gets people all worked up again trying to explain or defend themselves.  The question "why?" looks for motivation which in never totally clear and is always negative if something has gone wrong. 


Keep the focus positive

Focus on solutions, the HTC principles, the needs of the program and positive aspects of a relationship then make a first step in a positive direction.  Focusing on solutions helps us to find solutions.  Focusing on something positive helps us to see what is positive.  At some point early in the conflict resolution, there needs to be a change in perception away from what is wrong toward what can be done about it.  Tension eases when all participants are focused on the solution. At HTC, we avoid approaching situations and conflicts from an adversarial perspective but look for opportunities in the situation and strengths and resources in the patrons involved. 

                                                      STEPS FOR DEALING WITH PATRON CONFLICTS


Staff are first point of contact

It is the coaches responsibility to enforce patron decisions including following the HTC values and principles.  Coaches are in a position to deal with most conflicts as, or shortly after they occur.  If a conflict occurs in front of a team, it can be helpful to deal with it right there in front of the team.  At times however, there is a need for privacy or patrons need to be separated in order to cool off a bit.  Then it is important to let the team know that the conflict is being worked on and is moving in a positive direction.  The immediate goal of the staff intervention is to pull the plug on the tension and keep things from escalating and then to help the patrons involved take a step in a positive direction.


Staff do not have authority to set consequences for disruptive behavior except when it is clear that the tension is increasing.  If the patron cannot get settled down enough to continue working without disrupting others they are usually asked to leave for a period of time to cool off.  If disruption continues upon their return, they are sent home.


Elders have authority to set consequences for principle violations.

HTC patrons have designated the elders as the discipline committee to deal with violations of HTC values and principles.  They have the authority to respond to disruptive behavior up to and including suspension from the program.  The elders only have this authority when they are at a scheduled meeting as a group.  Individual or groups of elders have no authority on their own.  Usually concerns are brought to elders by staff since they are the first point of contact for violations of values and principles.  This is usually done at the regular elders meeting on Thursdays.  The discussion during these meetings is totally confidential.  No elder is to reveal or discuss what was shared during these meetings even with other elders. 


Consequences set by elders often stipulate that the patron apologize for their actions and review the principles that were violated.  There are no precedents for elder decisions.  Every situation is seen as unique and consequences given to other patrons with similar principle violation have no bearing on the elders response in any particular situation. 


Over the years, the elders have shown a remarkable capacity to empathize with patrons who have violated principles and they have often come up with very creative solutions that help patrons learn valuable lessons.  The more challenging situations are where a patron denies that there is a problem or where there is a pattern of disruptive behavior.  The focus of the elders discussion is always on how to be helpful to the patron.  The issue of punishment is not considered.  Sometimes, the best way to be helpful is to send a clear message that the patron is acting is a way that creates problems for the program.  The elders strive to find a balance in sending that message.   If the elder's response is too weak it is not heard.  If a consequence is too strong it is also not heard and can result in anger and defensiveness and often a pulling away from the program.




$    Being an Elders is the most difficult and challenging job at the Hard Times Cafe.  The Elders as a group are responsible for making sure that all HTC patrons follow the principles that are included in our bylaws.  Individual Elders do not have any particular responsibilities in this area except to let the Elders as a group know about concerns they may need to deal with.


$    Elders need to make decisions that help patrons who may have violated the principles to make improvements so they follow the principles in the future.  A helpful question to ask is whether the patron seems to be moving toward or away from the principles.  If moving toward the principles, encouragement, support and reminders are needed.  If moving away from the principles, action needs to be taken to send a message that insures that principles are followed.


The Elders are not investigators, prosecutors, or judges.  Their job is to simply to make sure that the HTC principles are followed.  If it appears that HTC principles were not followed the Elders are responsible for helping the patron to understand and follow the principles in the future. In order to do this the Elders must have both an open mind and an open heart.


$    Each situation brought to the Elders is unique.  It does not matter what may have been done in previous situations, no matter how much they seem the same.  The Elder's response needs to fit with the principle that was violated, the patrons involved and their circumstances and whether it was an isolated incident or seems part of a pattern of repeated principle violations.  There are no precedents for Elder decisions.


$    For the Elders, the word "justice" means "restoring the right relationship" rather than "punishment fits the crime."  The first meaning is the earliest meaning of the word from biblical times.  Every HTC patron has the potential to improve and must be valued for their unique gifts and abilities.


$    When deciding how to respond to a situation, it is best NOT to consider personal relationships, threats that may have been made, how much the person is needed, what positions they hold, or fears or discomfort in dealing with the situation.  The only thing to consider is how to be helpful so that all patrons follow the HTC principles.  This involves sending a clear message of the importance of the principles while being supportive and encouraging in helping the patron follow the principles.


$    It is absolutely necessary that Elders respect the privacy of patrons whose concerns are dealt with in Elders meetings.  Discussion about patron's personal issues MUST NEVER be discussed outside of Elder's meetings.  Strict confidentiality must be respected at all times.


$    The Elders as a group must reach consensus before any decision can take effect.  Consensus means that each Elder can support the decision of the group even if they don' totally agree with it.  Every Elder must listen to each point of view with an open mind.  Stubbornly holding on to one's point of view until everyone else gives up is the worst way to reach consensus and actually is itself a violation of HTC principles. 


On the other hand, every Elder is responsible for the decisions of the group.  If an elder clearly feels a decision is unfair, or will not be helpful to the patrons involved, it is their responsibility to oppose the decision.  If there is disagreement between a harsher or more lenient approach, it might be best to err on the side of being too lenient, especially if there is not a pattern of principle violations.  You can always bring the patron back if the first attempt does not correct the behavior but it is much harder to undo the effect of a response that may be too harsh.

                                                 HOW TO INTERVENE WHEN THERE IS A CONFLICT


$    Acknowledge and clarify emotions, make sure each person understands what the other is feeling without getting into why they are feeling that way.


It is very important to set and keep the focus on the immediate present and avoid getting into what happened.  Questions like "What are you feeling right now?" are helpful.  Most patrons will tend to want to go into an explanation of what happened. 


(12)                 Insure that participants feel understood and accepted.  Separate the problem from the participants.  Often staff can draw on a reserve of trust based on an ongoing relationship with one of the patrons.


(13)                 Find a perceptual shift - move away from the problem and toward a solution. 

(1)             Normalize the experience.  Point out that conflicts will happen at HTC and that our challenge is to work each one out - That's what HTC is all about,

(2)             Find an aspect of the relationship that was positive in the past

(3)             Communicate confidence it can be worked out.

(4)             Use stories, metaphors, humor to distract and enlighten

(5)             Appealing to larger good - point out that HTC will only survive if we all learn to work things out and that this has been done hundreds of times in the past.

(6)             Remind participants of the HTC principles and their commitment to them.

(7)             Identify strengths and potential of participants.

(8)             Remind participants of previous successes especially if they have worked out conflicts before

(9)             Directly confront focus on the past.  (E.g. "That's in the past.  We can't change the past but we can take action to fix what is hurting us right now and make sure we get along in the future.

(10)           Directly disconnect the problem from the solution by restating the problem in present terms and stressing the need for working it out.  (E.g. "Yes, that's what happened a while ago but problem now is that your feeling hurt and upset and don't want to trust anyone right now.  We need to focus on how to fix that."


(14)                 Initiate an first positive step.  This can often be an apology or handshake.  It does not matter if they "mean it" at this point.  Emotions are temporary and a response to our immediate perceptions.  The gesture helps to ease the emotions and invariably leads to working it out.


(15)                 Recognize and strengthen even small improvements.  It is important to follow up with each of the participants and thank them for their strength and wisdom in working it out.  It is helpful to recognize continuing improvements in following the principles and to point them out. 

                                                                                                                   Part 6


                                                                                                         Staff and Coaches


$                                  Role of staff and coaches


$                                  Qualities of effective staff


$                                  ABC's of empowerment

                                                                        ROLE OF STAFF AND COACHES AT HTC


Staff and coaches play a unique role in an empowerment setting.  They have significant responsibility and limited authority.  Staff are responsible for insuring that the teams operate appropriately and complete tasks that keep the program operating, yet they cannot tell patrons what to do.  We refer to this process as leadership without authority.  While staff have limited authority (basically that granted to them by patrons), they can have significant influence.  This influence is based on competency in the task at hand as well on gaining the respect and trust of patrons by being straightforward and open with them. 


Enforce patron decisions

HTC focuses on teaching responsibility.  Patrons usually make good decisions but at times have difficulty following through when obstacles arise.  The coaches job is to remind patrons of past decisions.  We let them know they can make a proposal to change those decisions but until that passes, they are expected to follow the policies set by the team or patrons. 


Provide weekly POI ratings

POI ratings provide important feedback for patron improvement and determine the awards that patrons use for basic necessities.  It is very important that these ratings be accurate and consistent.  Giving scores that are too high limits growth and improvement and teaches irresponsibility.  Giving scores that are too low can lead to discouragement and frustration.  It can be helpful to negotiate scores with patrons but there must be a good reason for changing a particular score.


Facilitate team meetings

The primary tasks in facilitating team meetings are to insure each patron has input and keep the focus on the topic at hand.  There are many opportunities for distraction and discussion on related (or unrelated) topics.  When the discussion strays, it is helpful to ask if that item needs to be added to the agenda and then return to the topic at hand. 


Help patrons make good decisions

Empowerment is not doing whatever the patrons want.  It is the coaches responsibility to provide input and feedback that helps patrons make effective decisions.  There are occasions when it might be helpful to step back and let patrons learn from mistakes but these opportunities will come up on their own.  Patrons build confidence through success and need to learn the steps to making decisions that are responsible over the long term.  Coaches are most helpful in this process when they are responsive rather than pro-active.  It is much more effective to respond to a patron idea or proposal with a series of questions that stimulate thought and problems solving than to simply say what needs to be done. 


At times, coaches will play the role of devils advocate and challenge the patrons to convince them how something will work.  Most often is best to ask lots of questions such as "What if...?," "Then what?"  "If... then?"  It is also helpful to review priorities and explore potential obstacles or effects on others.  Patrons need to be able to evaluate the costs and benefits as well as the short and long term consequences of decisions.   The best way to learn this is through clear feedback from the coach offered in an accepting and respectful manner.


Provide clarifying advice and feedback

This occurs during meetings as noted above but also through a lot of one-to-one interaction with patrons.  It is important for staff and coaches to recognize their limitations in terms of training and experience in counseling.  Some patrons are in need of professional mental health assistance and it would be inappropriate (and potentially dangerous) for untrained staff to explore concerns when they are not sure where it might lead.


The safest and most effective role of staff in these situations is to help patrons clarify their concerns and priorities by asking questions that help them see the larger picture and some options they may have.  Listening is not always helpful.  Sometimes retelling stressful events can create additional stress.  Also a listener in a helping role needs to be able to pick up on subtle warning signals that there may be a deeper problem.  It is important for staff to recognize their limitations in working with patrons in these areas and refer them to someone who has the training and experience to be most helpful.


Provide training

The long term focus of HTC is to help patrons find meaningful jobs.  Patrons need training in work habits and jobs skills.  HTC emphasizes hands on training - learning by doing.  This often involves working with patrons to provide step by step instructions and immediate feedback.  It is most efficient if this can be done with small groups and most effective if more experienced team members help with the training process.  Sometimes training involves intensive one-on-one instructions.  At other times it involves checking work after it has been completed and offering feedback.  It is very important to catch patron errors and help them learn to correct and prevent them in order for them to avoid picking up bad habits that will affect their ability to keep a job. 


Another aspect of training that is very important is to help patrons become good learners.  This is a highly valuable skill that will serve them very well in the workplace.  It is helpful to talk about the learning process and to help patrons understand how they learn best and what their challenge areas are in terms of learning style. 


Support and encourage patron improvement

A large number of patrons come to HTC feeling hopeless and discouraged.  An important part of helping them recognize their strengths and potential is to demonstrate your confidence in them by providing regular support and encouragement.  Support doesn't just involve talking about improvements and accomplishments.  It is important to normalize struggles and difficulties by pointing out that others have had similar experiences. Perceptions of weaknesses and limitations can be very real to HTC patrons.  It is important to acknowledge them in the present time but also to demonstrate confidence that they can move in a positive direction.  (E.g. "I can see that's how you feel right now, but ...") Providing support and encouragement often involves helping the patron to see the larger picture - that they are not alone in their struggle and there are resources they can tap into.  Sometimes patrons need reminding of their strengths and accomplishments - it is easy to forget how far we have come when new stressors press in on us.


Insure accuracy of patron work

HTC training takes place in real time in the real world.  There is no simulated work at HTC.  Someone is depending on the accuracy and effectiveness of every activity that every team carries out.  Coaches need to insure that tasks are completed appropriately both for the continued effectiveness of the program and to help patrons develop skills in accuracy and follow through.


Deal with patron conflicts

Conflicts will happen at HTC.  Most of them can be prevented through regular contact with patrons but there will be differences that will erupt into conflict.  Preventing and quickly responding to patron conflicts is one of the most important responsibilities of coaches.  It can be a real pain to have to drop everything and deal with a patron's frustration or acting out.  It will be much more painful in the long run (for both staff and patrons) if we do not respond immediately.  Dealing with conflicts immediately keeps them small and manageable and saves significant time in the long run.


Insure HTC values and principles are followed

HTC values and principles form the foundation for the program.  Keeping these ideals in front of patrons and always dealing with even small deviations from them is probably the single thing that is most responsible for the success of the program. 

                                                                                    QUALITIES OF EFFECTIVE STAFF















Knows limits


Well organized


Open to feedback


Accepting attitude


Open communication


Acknowledges mistakes


Keeps balance as a priority


Maintains a calm confidence


Works as a team with other staff


Commitment to personal improvement


Genuine concern for patron's well being


Commitment to patron's long term improvement


Maintains a professional relationship with patrons






                                                                                  ABC'S OF EMPOWERMENT


ABC stands for Accept, Balance and Clarify.  These principles sum up the HTC model of empowerment and what staff and coaches need to be doing to help patrons make lasting improvements in their lives.  When is doubt, think ABC and apply these principles to the situation at hand.  When reflecting on what's happening and what to do next, think ABC.  These principles will keep you moving in a helpful direction.



Acceptance is freedom - it leads to a clearer understanding of problems and gives us the flexibility to respond according to the needs of the situation.  In many ways, acceptance is most important for what it is not.  When we hold onto past mistakes, fear, judgements, or "shoulds", there is little room for fresh, new ways of seeing things.  We miss what is unique and possible. 

Acceptance means letting go of assumptions and expectations and opening our minds and hearts to the situation at hand.  It is simply saying "This is what is happening" and dealing with it.


There are two parts to acceptance: The first involves accepting the reality of a situation without bring in previous judgement, fears, expectations, resentment or thoughts of what "should be."  The second involves separating people from what they do. When we don't feel accepted, we become defensive - trust, communication and improvement are blocked by a wall we can't see or penetrate. 


Acceptance leads to patience, respect, understanding and sharing.  It builds openness, flexibility, humility, faith and wisdom.  Acceptance helps us focus more clearly in each moment and discover opportunities and potential that are often hidden by resentment and rejection.



Balance keeps our feet on the ground, our minds clear and our emotions appropriate.  It brings ease and receptivity to each situation.  Stress, hurry, power, ego, tension and loss throw relationships out of balance.  Our ability to be receptive to people and situations is decreased to the extent that we hurry or are under stress.  We react instead of respond.    Everything is easier when we maintain physical, mental and emotional balance.  Everything is harder when we don't.


Balance frees us to participate in building community and developing responsibility.  We need balance in our perceptions, our sense of control, our support systems and our work.  Incentives need to be in balance with needs and goals.  Responsibility and challenge need to be in balance with support and capabilities.  Balance allows us to listen to, share, join with and challenge others.  It frees us to be flexible, patient, humble and wise.



Clarifying means to sort out what is true from various perspectives.  We see the larger perspective and the relationship between detailed components.  We understand what is important and what is possible.  Clarifying is essentially a process of asking questions:  What are they feeling right now?  What do they need right now?  What are the long term effects?  How do they see this?  Who else is involved here? What is most important?  What are the options?  What are the priorities?  How else could we do this?  If ... then what?  What direction is this taking us?


When we clarify words, intentions, feelings and perceptions, we communicate in a way that allows others to understand and respond appropriately.  Small misunderstandings can lead to big conflicts.  When we clarify needs, choices and consequences, we gain control and direction.  Clarifying helps us to see what is happening and understand what to do about it.


                                                                                                       Part 7


                                                                                               Keys to success


                                                                                          KEYS TO SUCCESS


The Hard Times Cafe has been growing and improving for over eight years despite few resources and a lot of obstacles.  It is helpful to consider what is responsible for past success. After reflecting on the accomplishments, failures, lessons and mistakes, it is my opinion that the following list sums up what is most important in keeping HTC alive and well.



We have tried to never be in a hurry but to take time to respond to patron's needs and input and to fix problems for the long term.  We also try to keep things in perspective and balance work demands with personal needs.  The times that have been most difficult for HTC are times when the facilitators have been trying to do too much. 


Strong commitment to HTC values and principles

We strive to keep the values and principles in front of everybody all of the time.  We have worked through especially difficult times by investing time in reviewing what the program stands for and what is important to us.


Person to person interaction

The bottom line is: when people feel accepted and respected, they are much more likely to recognize and realize their potential and responsibility.  This requires investment in 1:1 and small group interaction which means taking time to listen and to simply walk around and be available.


Each patron is valued and important

Inclusion is an important part of what HTC is about.  Making an extra effort to include a patron who is withdrawn, resistant or negative helps not only that patron but others feel that everyone is valued.  The bottom line is that the greatest resource that HTC has is the patrons and every one has something to offer.


Shared commitment to improvement

HTC is about making improvements.  We all grow and prosper to the extent that both staff and patrons are committed to improving.  This helps us see obstacles as opportunities and set-backs as learning experiences.


Open discussion of ideas and concerns

Empowerment cannot be anything else but open.  Consensus decision making requires that everybody knows what's going on.   Withholding information builds suspicion and feeds rumors. Openness builds trust and respect.


Clear, honest feedback given respectfully

This is one of the most difficult challenges for staff.  We want patrons to like us and they will like us if we tell them nice things.  However, we are only helpful to the extent we focus on the long term growth and improvement of patrons.  This means being up front in an open and respectful way.  Patrons know where they stand and what they need to do to improve. 


Dealing with even small conflicts and rumors immediately

Rumors and conflicts grow, spread and join if they are allowed to.  From the beginning we have stopped whatever we were doing to deal with conflict when they arose.  Sometimes it takes a while to get things settled but getting an early start makes everything much easier.


Being well organized and efficient

HTC is a complicated program in many respects.  There can be many patrons who work on the same task.  Disorganization and inefficiency lead to discouragement and frustration.  Chaos expands and spreads quickly but can require hours and hours of drudgery to sort out.  Many patrons have had little training or experience in developing organization skills.  It is very important to have well designed systems that allow patrons to work and learn efficiently.