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Homeless shelters are shelters, temporary residences for homeless people. Usually located in urban neighborhoods, they are similar to emergency shelters. The primary difference is that homeless shelters are usually open to anyone, without regard to the reason for need. Some shelters limit their clientele by gender or age.

Conditions of use[edit | edit source]

In the United States, most homeless shelters expect clients to stay elsewhere during the day, returning only to sleep, or if the shelter also provides meals, to eat; people in emergency shelters are more likely to stay all day, except for work, school, or errands. Some homeless shelters, however, are open 24 hours a day.

There are daytime-only homeless shelters, where the homeless can go when they cannot stay inside at their night-time sleeping shelter during the day. Such an early model of a daytime homeless shelter providing multi-faceted services is Saint Francis House in Boston, Massachusetts.

In Australia, due to Govt funding requirements - most homelessness services fill the role of both daytime and night time shelters. Shelters develop empowerment based "wrap around" services in which clients are case managed and supported in their efforts to become self relliant. A leading service provider in this area is Najidah.

Management and funding[edit | edit source]

Homeless shelters are usually operated by a non-profit agency, a municipal agency, or associated with a church. Many get at least part of their funding from local government entities. Shelters can sometimes be referred to as "human warehouses". Other shelters however, base their practice on empowerment models, where instead of "warehousing clients", the empower "participants" to become agents in their own futures and destinies. Such models tend to focus on assisting participants to access their rights whilst fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens. Sometimes this includes contributing financially towards the provision of the shelters they are residing in. In Australia, legislation requires those residing in Government funded shelters to contribute a figure similar to 25% of their own income, in return for support and accommodation. Consequently, many shelters in Australia rely on participant contributions for as much as 20% of their budgets.[1]

Services[edit | edit source]

Homeless shelters sometimes also provide other services[1], such as a soup kitchen, job seeking skills training, job training, job placement, support groups, and/or substance (i.e., drugdrugs and/or alcohol) abuse treatment. If they do not offer any of these services, they can usually refer their clients to agencies that do.

Controversy[edit | edit source]

There has been concern about the transmission of diseases in the homeless population housed in shelters, especially with some air and blood borne viruses[2]. [3]

A question has been raised as to just how much money donated to the charities which run the shelters actually gets to the homeless person and the needed services. In many cases, there is a large overhead in administrative costs which compromise the money for their homeless clients.[4]

Different models[edit | edit source]

An example of a homeless shelter which does not fit the usual model is Raphael House, a shelter for homeless parents and children, which has been operating in the Tenderloin, San Francisco, California since 1971 and was the first such shelter in that city.

"Wet" shelters[edit | edit source]

Traditionally, homeless shelters ban alcohol. In Canada in 1997, as the result of an inquest into the deaths of two homeless alcoholics two years earlier, Toronto's Seaton House became the first homeless shelter in Canada to operate a "wet shelter" on a "managed alcohol" principle in which clients are served a glass of wine once an hour until staff determine that they are too inebriated to continue. Previously, homeless alcoholics opted to stay on the streets often seeking alcohol from unsafe sources such as mouthwash, rubbing alcohol or industrial products which, in turn, resulted in frequent use of emergency medical facilities. The program has been duplicated in other Canadian cities and a study of Ottawa's "wet shelter" found that emergency room visit and police encounters by clients were cut by half.[5] The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2006 found that serving chronic street alcoholics controlled doses of alcohol also reduced their overall alcohol consumption. Researchers found that program participants cut their alcohol use from an average of 46 drinks a day when they entered the program to an average of 8 drinks and that their to hospital emergency rooms drop to an average of eight a month from 13.5 while encoutners with the police fall to an average of 8.8 from 18.1.[6]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Najidah Association Inc. Annual report, 2007.
  2. Najidah Association Inc. Annual return to the Dept. of Communities 2006
  3. "Occupational Exposure to Tuberculosis" - OSHA notice, 1997.
  4. O'Brien, James, "The high price of giving: Boston nonprofits shell out for strong CEOs, some say online numbers misleading", Boston Now newspaper, August 13, 2007, page 3.
  5. McKeen, Scott, "'Wet' shelter needs political will: Toronto project could serve as model for Edmonton", Edmonton Journal, March 7, 2007
  6. Patrick, Kelly, "The drinks are on us at the homeless shelter: Served every 90 minutes: Managed alcohol program reduces drinking", National Post, January 7, 2006

External links[edit | edit source]

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