Things To Know About How Homeless Shelters Work

how homeless shelters work

Not everyone has a home these days – it’s a bitter reality that many of us need to face and be reminded of. Fortunately, there are groups and organizations that exist to help the homeless. Join us as we look into how homeless shelters work.

The State of Homelessness

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty currently estimates that at least 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans per year are sleeping in shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation. About 7.4 million more individuals are displaced from their homes due to economic reasons.

In addition, after paying rent and utilities, 75% of extremely low-income households end up with less than half of their income left to pay for necessities such as food, medicine, transportation, or childcare.

Here are some of the most common reasons why a person becomes homeless:

  • Insufficient income and lack of affordable housing
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental disorders
  • Drug Addiction
  • Rape victims
  • Unemployment
  • Low wages

Despite efforts of the government to provide for every concern that we have in our community, some people are still left without homes.

How do homeless shelters work?

Some people may have a negative perception when it comes to living in homeless shelters. While not all organizations may be able to provide first-class services as others may expect, these groups are making sure that what they do are to their best efforts for homeless individuals.

A homeless shelter usually starts with a group of individuals who want to develop a plan to help people in the community who need shelter. It eventually grows into a plan to put up a homeless shelter. Most homeless shelters are being funded by sponsors such as hospitals, companies, professionals, and individuals.

Organizations who run homeless shelters (or sponsor them) create events that can benefit homeless individuals. Such charity events are very common, such as lavish gala dinners and small bake-off festivals. For sufficiently funded homeless shelters, they are able to provide programs for homeless people so that they will feel that they belong to the community.

Among the programs provided by homeless shelters are:

  • Feeding
  • Providing shelter
  • Distribution of basic necessities
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Rehabilitation

Feeding Program

The homeless shelter organization usually sets up a feeding program on a regular basis, wherein they support a certain community particularly the elderly and abandoned children. They also encourage children from well-to-do families to take part in such programs to enrich their minds with positive attitude and to nurture compassion to help the less fortunate.

Providing transient homes

Some organizations have built shelters that were meant to house homeless individuals until they are able to stand on their own feet. On their part, homeless people are not merely allowed to live in these houses, but they are also taught how to deal with their situation so that they can improve their lives. The transient home serves as a place to lift up their spirits and to look at themselves as people who have hope for improvement.

Homeless children are encouraged to engage in different activities, which teach them to become more sociable and less fearful.

Distribution of basic necessities and medical assistance

The homeless are often sick, most notably because of poor hygiene. With the help of homeless shelters, homeless individuals are provided basic necessities and taught on how to take care of themselves. Those with medical conditions are given proper care and medication with the help of hospital sponsors and health professionals.


Homeless children suffer the most as they lack the education that other kids may be enjoying. At the homeless shelter, they are not only housed to keep them safe, but also provided with education. In fact, some homeless shelters have buildings intended for different levels of learning.


Adults are given the opportunity to learn how to live in the real world by allowing them to take part in various activities that would teach them the skills that can be of help to them. While their goal is to have their own job once they leave the shelter, they also are required to attend seminars and workshops to mold their skills and talents.

People who run homeless shelters believe that everyone is capable of doing great things with the proper foundation on how to get things done. By doing this, the homeless may face the world without fear and worry, and may be able to sustain the needs of their families.


A number of homeless individuals may have been hooked on illegal substances. The homeless shelter helps by providing them the necessary medical and psychological assistance to help them get back to their normal lives.

Practices in Homeless Shelters

Homeless individuals usually check in between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM. The shelter allows individuals to stay in for the night or a couple of days. Exceeding the allowable number of days will mean having to pay for each night after.

Before staying in their individual beds, the homeless individuals are required to take a shower. The staff will provide them with clean towels, soap, toothpaste, and a toothbrush.

When it is time to sleep, a clean sheet and pillow will be provided.

One of the major concerns among homeless shelters are bed bugs. This may be apparent particularly where beds are often used by different people and may not have been cleaned often. There have been reports on infestation, but most homeless shelters try to get rid of these parasites to keep the place safe for people inside.

Final Word

The homeless shelter is a place that provides more than the basic needs of the homeless individuals. It also stands as an institution that provides hope and strength for homeless people to believe in themselves that they can change their lives for the better.