How to Start a Homeless Shelter

by Sara Melone
Homeless shelters provide an alternative to sleeping on the street.

Homeless shelters provide an alternative to sleeping on the street.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, statistics on the homeless epidemic are difficult to accurately report because homelessness is often a temporary or short-term state. Homelessness can be a transitional condition that occurs when an individual or family reaches a crisis point after a job loss, financial difficulty, fire or other natural disaster. Homeless shelters provide a place for families and individuals to stay temporarily until other arrangements can be made. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports the average in emergency shelter is 69 days for single men, 51 days for single women, and 70 days for families.

A homeless shelter may be run out of a private home.

Scope out a location for your homeless shelter. Ideally, a homeless shelter should be located in a place near the town center where those who need the facility will be able to find it easily. Rent or purchase a building to establish dedicated homeless services, or use an existing facility such as a church or recreation center to provide emergency overnight homeless shelter. You may also be able to open your own home as a homeless shelter if you desire.

Some cities only allow a homeless shelter in certain areas.

File the paperwork with your state offices to establish a Limited Liability Corporation or other business entity such as a non-profit organization for the operation of a homeless shelter. Check to see if your property can be zoned to operate as a homeless shelter, and apply for all of the proper permits and applicable business licenses to legally open and operate a homeless shelter at your location. Your town council or city planning division will typically make the decisions regarding permit approval and zoning requirements. In some cases, you may apply for special consideration to have zoning laws changed or exempted if necessary.

Seek professional guidance to set up the homeless shelter finances.

Meet with a financial adviser to determine the best way to structure the finances for your homeless shelter. You need to pay for utilities, rent, food and beds in addition to employees if you need to hire help. Ask your financial adviser to help you determine the best way to file taxes and keep financial records relating to the homeless shelter.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is a useful resource.

Seek help from homeless assistance programs to help fund your homeless shelter. You may be able to find local grants from the town, and you can also request donations as a non-profit institution. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is also known as HUD offers information on many assistance programs designed to help homeless shelter providers.

Items you will need

  • Permits
  • Beds
  • Sheets

About the Author

Sara Melone is a mother of three and a graduate of UNH. With prior careers in insurance and finance, photography, as well as certifications in fitness and nutrition, Melone draws directly from past experience and varying interests. She contributes with equal passion to birth journals, investment blogs, and self-help websites.

Photo Credits