Shelters for Homeless #thehomelessdilemma

I just read a great article at Bruce Sallan’s blog about the homeless and was prompted to write another segment about the homeless dilemma.


Let’s take a look at the homeless shelter:

  • Homeless shelters are often established as transient housing by the state or county. In many counties there are also non-profits (often religious organizations) that provide temporary housing.
  • The shelter could be an old apartment house with units.
  • The shelter could be set up like an evac center with lines of cots.
  • I spent time (as a nursing student) volunteering at a homeless center that had individual cottages for families with a large grassy, play area in the center. The center had originally been a motel built in the 50s.
  • Many shelters are for men or women very few are established for families.
  • Most shelters have waiting lists.

When I had to look for a place for my daughter and I, our city had a woman’s shelter with two or three bedroom apartments that you share with another mom and her children.  My first concern was sharing a domicile for months with someone I didn’t know. The shelter was pretty basic: there were pots, pans and dishes if they hadn’t been taken by the last resident. The furnishings were new in the 60s and fleas and bedbugs were a given. This particular shelter didn’t have a soup kitchen. So on the two to maybe three hundred I would have a month, I would struggle to pay for food, basics (like clothes and toiletries) and transportation for two. Don’t get me wrong, I learned how to live on $300 a month but you don’t save any money to get your own place by living in a shelter. Additionally, most shelters only offer free rent for one month to several months as there are long waiting lists.

I had a friend, across the country, who had to pay rent to stay in a shelter with her daughter. The rationale of her state was “you are getting state and federal subsidies we should get a piece of your measly 400 dollars”.

So with shelters there are several dilemmas: Families often get split up, food can be an extra expense, and the state takes some of the subsidies.

I have not mentioned that many of these men, women and children lived in a nice home months earlier,  owned a car, dressed in nice clothes, and ate in the booth next to you in Olive Garden 2 months ago. So the idea of losing job, home and the family is a hard hit.

Please don’t get me wrong if I sound ungrateful or critical. In sub zero temperatures, it is better to be inside and warm even if it’s with the knowledge that your family is across town.


I am grateful that I never had to live in a shelter. The car was my own “space.” The beds and couches of many dear people was so appreciated.

How far does $300 or 150 € get you each month? Could you live on that amount for a month?

5 thoughts on “Shelters for Homeless #thehomelessdilemma

  1. I work for one of the religious not-for-profits you speak of and we operate some of the shelter type accomodation you speak of. However, our’s have individual lockable living spaces for this very reason. We also operate homeless family services that keep families together while finding more permanent housing.

    I don’t know what the stats are worldwide but in Australia there are 105,000 homeless people, 17,000 of who are under the age of 12!


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