How to Set Up a Home for the Homeless

by Aubrey Warshaw

Establishing a shelter is a noble feet in assisting individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. In general, a homeless shelter is a night shelter where the homeless leave in the morning and return in the evening when the living quarters are available again for sleeping. A homeless shelter can even be set up in a home or even a single room in the house. Moreover, it's important to know how to set up a home for the homeless to ensure safety, both for you and other occupants, and that the shelter runs smoothly.

Select a home for the homeless shelter. Even if you have a small available room, you can open a shelter. Shelters can house 5 to 100 people. Make sure the shelter is available for use at least 10 hours a day to allow people 8 hours of sleep with time to get ready and to get settled in. The home should be available to for use on a consistent schedule.

Develop a mission statement for the homeless shelter. Your mission statement should outline the shelter's goals and reason for existence. It can be helpful for drawing in any potential donors or grant funding.

File the paperwork to establish a non-profit organization to operate a homeless shelter. Complete a Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption form with the IRS. Search online for the contact information of your local IRS office to request a copy of the application. Follow the instructions on the form and mail it back to the IRS.

Clear out floor space for the shelter. Remove any movable furniture to make room for living quarters. Avoid using a room with heavy or built-in furniture. Use folding chairs and tables, as they can be set up and then stored.

Make sure you have insurance on the home. Because there will be more people living in the house, there is a greater likelihood of property damage, including fire, water or wall and floor.

Offer homeless people beds, showers, laundry, kitchen facilities and a storage unit for their belongings. A bed could consist of a mat on the floor with two blankets. According to state health codes, bathroom facilities must consist of at least a sink, toilet and soap.

Staff your shelter with volunteers. Contact other homeless shelters to gain a list of volunteers who already have previous experience. Or run an ad in your local newspaper or work with various homeless agencies in the community to gather a list of volunteers who might be interested in working at your shelter.

Stock your shelter with supplies. Your shelter will need items such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies, light snacks and coffee. Arrange a schedule where you or someone else will go shopping once a week to restock.

Arrange for laundry services. Decide whether you would like to purchase laundry appliances to wash blankets and linens or would prefer to contract with an outside agency. This could depend on the number of people who will be staying in your shelter.

Work with a homeless agency to announce that your shelter is open. Let service agencies refer people in need. The agency will have a good idea of who will be best where. They might also be able to help provide transportation to and from the shelter.

Tips

  • For security purposes, make sure your shelter has a separate entry and a closed door between the shelter and any other rooms in the building.
  • It's easier to manage a shelter if it consists of one continuous space that is visible from any part of the room. You may not feel comfortable having homeless people scattered throughout the home. Find a room that's easy to manage so you can minimize the amount of staff required.

About the Author

Aubrey Warshaw has experience working in federal, state and local levels of government. He has a Master of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Warshaw's written work includes policy briefs for a 9-12 institution, letters to constituents and various reports involving policy issues such as education and poverty.

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