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Why Don't Homeless People Use Shelters?

Kylyssa Shay was homeless for over a year in her youth; it lead her to become a homelessness activist. She thinks, feels, and has opinions.

When I was homeless, I spent a lot of my time sleeping "in the rough," which is another way of saying outdoors. Many homed people assume the homeless don't use shelters because they're drug users (and drug use is against the rules) or refuse to follow some other aspect of the shelter's rules. But no, I was neither using drugs nor too defiant to obey the rules.

I've been asked why I didn't just stay in shelters. The issue is pretty complex, but here is my answer, my reasons for sleeping in the rough, and also some of the reasons I've seen others avoid shelters. Some of these might surprise you. I know I was shocked to discover a few of them myself.

Please keep in mind that not all facilities have all or even any of these downsides. Still, these are the things many homeless people have experienced at some facilities in the U.S. which may have caused them to later avoid using them at all. There are good ones out there, too. They can just be hard to find sometimes.

photo by Beverly Lussier

photo by Beverly Lussier

19. No Pets Allowed

Trading faithful companionship for somewhere legal to sleep is not an option for some. Think about your family dog, the one you've loved for years who is a member of your family. Now imagine that you become homeless and all you have left of your old life is that faithful, lifetime friend. He is your only source of affection and companionship. Could you abandon him without a second thought?

Pets are usually not allowed into shelters, so their owners often choose to sleep outside with the only friends who haven't deserted them: their pets.

18. Denied Entry Due to Mental Illness

Some people are denied entry due to mental illness, even if caregivers have given them paperwork stating that they are not a danger to themselves or others.

Since most workers and volunteers are not trained to distinguish between violent criminals and harmless people with mental illnesses, the tendency is to be overly cautious and refuse anyone with any mental health issues entry at some (but thankfully not all) shelters. Workers and organizations cannot be blamed for being ill-equipped to handle mentally ill clients because they simply don't have the resources to train volunteers or workers.

17. Discrimination Against LGBTQ People

40% of homeless teens and youth identify as LGBT and often don't use shelters because many of those places, like the parents who discarded them, discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless,

"LGBT youth are also disproportionally homeless due to overt discrimination when seeking alternative housing – widespread discrimination in federally funded institutions frequently contributes to the growing rates of homelessness among LGBT youth. Once homeless, these youth experience greater physical and sexual exploitation than their heterosexual counterparts."

Shelters are often infested with lice or other parasites.

Shelters are often infested with lice or other parasites.

16. Fear of Contracting Parasites like Lice, Scabies, Pubic Lice, or Bedbugs

No matter how clean a facility is kept, the danger of getting parasites there is still very high. Mind you, this is not the fault of staff or organizations running shelters, it is simply a hazard of having sleeping arrangements that hundreds of people cycle through; bedbugs are now even fairly common in high end hotels. Homeless people tend to carry a lot of parasites, likely because they tend to sleep in lots of different places. So if you sleep every night in a different bed that a long string of other people have slept in, or if you sleep too close to an ever-changing assortment of people, eventually you are bound to get head lice, pubic lice, or scabies, and it's hard as heck to get rid of parasites when you have no home.

Bedbugs are a biting parasite that can easily infest a bedroll, backpack, clothes, or other possessions. Homeless people don't want to infest the homes of people who give them a place to stay for the night or to bring bedbugs to work with them. Volunteers and employees also need to take precautions to avoid bringing bedbugs home with them.

The parasites commonly present in shelters were my second most important reason for avoiding them. I'm itching right now just thinking about the nasty things.

15. Hours of Operation Incompatible with Work Hours

Contrary to popular belief, many homeless people have jobs. Because check-in hours for shelters are often rigid and the process of waiting in line and checking in usually takes hours, many working poor cannot use them. Others work evening or night hours which don't allow them to get inside before curfew. People who work from nine to five usually can't use them, either, since by the time they get off work, it's usually too late for them to get in line for check-in.

Another reason some shelters are incompatible with employment is that they require people to attend AA or other drug abuse rehab classes, often held during normal work hours, every day or most days they use the facility, whether they have a drug or alcohol problem or not. Others require those who use their services to take rudimentary job skill classes or other life-skill classes during business hours even if employed and already well-educated on those topics.

By the time I had a regular job, I had decided to sleep outside exclusively, so this was not a problem for me.

Shelters attract predators.

Shelters attract predators.

14. Danger of Rape or Assault

Homeless shelters and the areas around them are often hunting grounds for human predators. Some of the craftier ones get jobs at the charities while most others just watch for individuals departing in the morning or arriving in the evening. It's not just rapists, either. Predators in search of "excitement" will track a lone person leaving a facility so they can beat him or harass him for fun.

Also, although there are usually attendants of some kind on watch, almost none of them are trained to deal with violent behavior, leaving users vulnerable. Volunteer workers honestly cannot be expected to put themselves in the sort of danger intervening in such situations requires, nor can they have eyes on the backs of their heads or keep watch over everyone. Lack of sufficient staffing is common and people can only do so much.

For me, this was the number one reason to avoid them. Once you get raped or assaulted in a shelter or because you were trailed after leaving one, you just don't want to try it again, no matter how hot or cold or rainy or otherwise unpleasant it is outside.

Criminals are well aware that police seldom take complaints from people without homes seriously. Many people avoid shelters because pretending to not be homeless (which means avoiding shelters, missions, and soup kitchens) is one of the most effective ways to avoid such predators.

13. Fear of Contracting Disease

Diseases spread easily in close quarters. There's always at least one person with a cough. One reason it's hard to fall asleep in a shelter is the almost endless coughing. Many of those with coughs have chronic illnesses or transmissible diseases. Tuberculosis is frighteningly common among people living on the street. When you may have to sleep out in the elements on any given night (there's no guarantee you'll get into a shelter every night), even the flu can be a life-threatening disease to contract.

If you know that many people are homeless due to ill health or chronic illnesses, you'll see why accommodations full of sick people pose an even greater risk to them.

12. An Invasive and Disrespectful Check-In Process

This answer has brought me a lot of flack, but even though it played only a minor part in my decision not to use shelters, I feel it is important to mention: The check-in process in some but not all of these places is sometimes humiliating and dehumanizing.

On more than one occasion, I was asked questions such as, "Do you have any sexual partners you could stay with?" as well as other questions about my sex life. One worker even said that I find a boyfriend to stay with, basically suggesting I exchange sexual favors for a place to sleep. Keep in mind that I, like most women homeless more than a few weeks, had already been the victim of sexual assault. It made me feel horrible, like I was less than a person and had nothing else to offer anyone.

Many shelters don't offer accommodations for the handicapped.

Many shelters don't offer accommodations for the handicapped.

11. Lack of Handicapped Accommodations

While I was waiting to talk to someone about volunteering at an associated soup kitchen, I was shocked to see someone turned away because he was in a wheelchair. Another person and I offered to pull his chair up the stairs and help him inside if he needed it, but they told us it had to do with insurance concerns and said that they were sorry but, no, he couldn't stay.

That was the first time I saw a handicapped person turned away from a homeless shelter but sadly, it was not the last. Many of these organizations make use of old buildings re-purposed to fit a bunch of beds. Sometimes their beds are located above the first floor and they have no elevators. Some don't have railings in the restrooms or ramps into the rooms or buildings either. While it is not the fault of those who run them, some facilities are unable to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

Regardless of what the Americans with Disabilities Act says, some places that provide temporary housing turn away people in wheelchairs or with other mobility limitations such as the need to use a walker or crutches to get around. While sometimes they will offer a hotel voucher to the disabled person, that doesn't always happen. Not every organization has the funds to do this and a shelter can get shut down if they break the rules. They truly don't want to turn away disabled people, but they may have no choice.

10. Drug Addictions

Yes, some people avoid shelters because of drug addictions—their own or others'.

Since many locations have signs insisting they are drug free zones, some drug users will avoid them. However, many drug users and dealers do not, making some of them hot spots of drug activity, and those frightened by drug related activity may come to avoid shelters because of this, quite reasonably fearing for their or their children's safety. Still others are themselves trying to get off drugs and being around other users makes it very difficult for them to do so, so they avoid staying there while trying to kick their drug or alcohol habits.

9. Separation of Family Members

This is a biggie and it's pretty horrible when you think about it: Most homeless shelters separate families.

Women can bring their pre-teen children into most women's facilities, but teenage male children (as young as 13) may be required to go to a men's shelter which they may not even get into. Can you imagine a mother leaving her young teenage son to sleep alone on the street without her protection while she sleeps inside? Most parents will not leave their children, so instead, the whole family sleeps in their car or outside.

Men and women usually cannot stay in the same place, so husbands and wives are separated, knowing their spouse might not get a bed somewhere else. These people are often elderly or disabled and depend on each other for safety and care. So again, most of them will forgo the use of temporary emergency housing so they can take care of each other.

Also, children cannot stay in the vast majority of men's shelters. This leaves single fathers in a very difficult spot, one that is not only heartbreaking but criminal. While some may say the children should just be taken away, the homelessness is usually temporary and the loss of a parent or parents will probably affect a child more deeply than a month or so living with insecurity and discomfort.

why_homeless_people_avoid_shelters

8. Some Service Dogs are Barred from Entry

Service dogs, other than seeing eye and hearing assistance dogs, are sometimes denied entry to homeless facilities. Mobility dogs (that help you stand or get into your wheelchair, assist you up stairs, etc.), dogs that provide assistance for mental conditions such as anxiety or agoraphobia, and other service dogs are even more often denied entry.

People frequently lose their own identification papers, often through no fault of their own, so it is no surprise that they often lose identification papers for their service animals. Even in the case of seeing eye and hearing assistance dogs, if the person has lost the dog's paperwork or doesn't have an official harness, the dog will not be allowed inside. Few people in that situation will abandon a service dog.

While it is perfectly understandable that facilities will not allow animals, especially those that are not service animals, it's also perfectly understandable that disabled people would not be willing to part with an animal that increases their ability to function, especially at the risk of having that animal die from exposure or get lost or stolen. Many people who rely on animals for independence and safety are unwilling to be separated from them for any reason.

7. Staff Assumptions about Drug Use and Criminality

While it was not often said aloud, many shelter employees and volunteers regard all people who need their services as drug addicts and criminals. To avoid being perceived as such, many avoid using those services.

When you are homeless, many people will automatically treat you as a criminal and a drug user. They are unable to comprehend that a person without a home may just be someone down on his or her luck without any wrongdoing on his or her part.

While I'm sure they mean well, many organizations and their employees or volunteers take it upon themselves to cure people of their sometimes non-existent addictions and criminal ways. Some put a lot of pressure on homeless people to attend alcohol and drug abuse counseling even if they are not alcohol or drug abusers.

I remember the smirks and questioning looks I got when I insisted I had no drug or alcohol abuse issues. One employee actually asked me, "Well, then, why are you so skinny?"

Forced participation in substance abuse counseling takes time away from job searches and current employment which the average person in such a situation cannot afford, causing most employed homeless people and those actively seeking employment to avoid shelters that require it.

why_homeless_people_avoid_shelters

6. Danger of Theft

While most homeless people are not thieves, a few of them are. It only takes one to spoil it for everyone else. When you have no home, your little bit of stuff is precious; it's all you have.

While I was not robbed inside a shelter, I heard stories from many who were. They stopped using shelters to protect their few meager possessions from theft.

Shoes are among the most commonly stolen items. Foot care is incredibly important and the loss of your only pair of shoes can be life-threatening. It can also be extremely difficult to replace them if they get stolen.

5. Religious Differences

Most shelters and kitchens have some sort of religious service people are required to sit through to eat or sleep there. I'm an atheist, but this didn't bother me much. Frankly, I was pleased to be in a climate-controlled room and sitting at rest somewhere without fear of getting harassed by gangs or police, no matter what I had to pretend to believe. It didn't even bother me that I had to give lip-service to the notion that I was being punished by God for being a bad person.

However, some people object to this, often people with strong religious beliefs of their own who believe they already have a good relationship with God. I've met a fair number of people unwilling to sit through the services and pretend their situation is a just punishment from God for being a terrible person. Very religious people might get extremely offended when someone looks down on them and tells them they don't have a good enough relationship with Jesus to deserve a place to live.

4. Lack of Privacy and Fear of Crowds

Many homed people would argue that people who are down on their luck are not deserving of privacy. However, the complete lack of privacy can be especially hard on people with mental disorders that make them fear crowds. I encountered several crowd-phobic people who could not be convinced to use a homeless facility even though they were sickly and ill-suited to outdoor sleeping even when the weather was good.

Deserving of privacy or not, people with mental illnesses that cause a fear of crowds or even a fear of a moderate number of people packed into close quarters are genuinely terrified of such conditions, even in the safest of circumstances.

Charities understandably try to make the most of their square footage by squeezing as many beds into their facility as possible. Unfortunately, that can make them frightening to people with PTSD, claustrophobia, social anxiety, or fear of crowds.

3. Lack of Control

By the time a person is on the street, his or her life is usually already careening out of control. That feeling can be enhanced by the regimented check-in times, eating, prayer, sleep times, and check-out in a shelter. Some people stay out-of-doors so they can feel like they have some vestige of control over their own lives.

why_homeless_people_avoid_shelters

2. Rules That Unfairly Endanger Disabled Individuals

Walkers, crutches, and canes are sometimes taken away from users at some organizations during check-in. Sometimes, even appliances such as leg braces are taken away for "safe keeping." While I can understand that the danger of theft is very real, and that some people who are mentally ill might hit people with their crutches, braces, or walkers, it is frightening to be left without mobility in a strange place. So some who have need of medical appliances or mobility assisting devices forgo the use of homeless facilities.

1. Lack of Available Beds

There is not enough safe, legal shelter for everyone. No matter how many people choose not to use them, there are still not nearly enough beds available for those who would like to sleep indoors despite the risks involved.

In most cities in the US, there's space for less than 25% of the homeless people living in that city. In some cities, there is room for less than 5% of their homeless population.

Additionally, many cities have made ordinances limiting the number of people a charity may serve. In some, they may not provide beds for more than 20 people! Additionally, some cities have created ordinances barring services from being located in or near the downtown area (where the churches and other organizations likely to provide such services are most likely to own property) or laws preventing two shelters from being within a certain distance of each other.

This is why lines to check in form so early in the day and staff is often so quick to deny entry to people for the most trivial of reasons. This may be why some facilities have made their requirements for use so restrictive. In fact, some of them have made their requirements so strict that, in some cases and despite a long line of people trying to get a place to sleep, they don't even fill the number of beds they have.

In my opinion, the ordinances are a bigger issue than the lack of funding because the ordinances have prevented people with funding from opening or expanding existing shelters. What you can do about it is find out what your local laws are regarding homeless facilities and write to your congresspeople and representatives as well as donating to local charities and helping to fund new ones.

Would You Be Reluctant to Use a Shelter?

There are not nearly enough shelters and many of them that exist are too hazardous or, more often, too regulation-bound to be effective in providing safe haven from the elements.

The fact of the matter is that almost no one is immune from the possibility of homelessness. In many cases all it takes is one personal catastrophe to put a person or family on the street. Homeless people are just like you and me.

After reading this article and getting some more information on the dangers and indignities you could face in a shelter, do you understand why many people without traditional housing avoid using them? If you wouldn't use a homeless shelter, you can hardly expect homeless people to. I hope you will share this distressing information and help others see why things need to change.

Should Be Grateful for Assistance No Matter How They Are Treated? Or Do People Deserve to Be Treated like Human Beings?

Some people believe that the homeless should just be grateful for any scraps tossed their way, no matter what indignities, dangers, or humiliations they must face to get them. They believe that they should be grateful even if a worker suggests they exchange sexual favors for a place to stay or if they get assaulted in or when leaving a shelter. They believe that anyone who suggests that there is anything wrong with shelters as they currently exist is simply hateful. They believe it's a sin to criticize any efforts to help, no matter how those people being helped are treated. The hate mail I have received regarding this page supports these views.

While I worked in shelters for many years as a volunteer and absolutely know that the vast majority of workers are doing their best, I believe the system is deeply flawed. There are not enough facilities or security, and a homeless person is a person, deserving of a degree of dignity. What do you think?

More Articles on Why People Avoid Homeless Shelters and Sleep Outside Instead

Do We Need More, Better Homeless Shelters and Help for Existent Ones?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Woah! What a sea of comments! I have a quick question. What are some things you think homeless people, already in a shelter, could use? We're planning some care kits for our local shelter here in La Crosse, WI.

Answer: I'd suggest you check out my post, "What to Buy if You're Homeless" for suggestions as to what homeless people might need. Also, you can ask your local shelters.

© 2009 Kylyssa Shay

Please Don't Swear or Make Personal Attacks in the Comments

Bedbug boy on June 12, 2019:

The sheer amount of people saying this is falsified or that OP is raving or that homeless people have dug their own grave have shown they've never experienced homelessness or stayed in a shelter (ha, formerly homeless.) I got thrown out of the house after my mom died because my stepdad hated me and wanted me dead, but I had to stay indoors because i'm in an area that's cold. As in, "If you sleep out here you will get hypothermia and die" cold. I was lucky that my shelter wasn't anywhere near or restrictive (tho the people i had to sleep with were pain to deal with, and they had to close down once because someone infested the entire place with bed bugs.) The place I went to felt like Shangri-La compared to the other shelters i've had to stay at. My worst horror story involving a shelter was this one in downtown where I couldn't even keep my phone on me, all of our stuff for whatever reason was split from us. And the lights (and TV) were on until 1 AM. We had to be up by 6 AM. Best stay ever!

I'm out of that and in a decentish place with a good paying job now, but something people don't understand is it can happen to *anyone.* People with horrible guardians and strained relationships (which is what happened in my face), people trying to escape abuse, people trying desperately to survive on a trickle of cash. It's not about "not working hard enough." This can happen to YOU. No human is more or less because of their financial statements.

(Oh, and by the way, J.K. Rowling was teetering on the brink of homelessness and on benefits when she wrote the Harry Potter series. Think twice about that before you say all homeless people/people on benefits are a drag on society.)

Amie eling on March 14, 2019:

Homeless people are people who got them selves in a mess and that’s their problem we don’t need to help them

LXSMom on October 19, 2018:

The problems of homelessness are varied and nuanced. I am personally appalled at some of the comments here; saying that you *should* suffer for your "mistakes", or that shelters *should* be miserable so that you want to get your life together; that you *should* be able to get yourself together within a month. My heart goes out to you for having to read these comments.

Homeless people, or formerly homeless people, should not be treated as dogs. These abusive comments are made from a position of ignorance and privilege. I am especially appalled by the comments from Christians, because the Bible warns that God sends the rain on the good and the bad, that everyone will face adversity, and that Jesus desires mercy more than sacrifice.

Jesus warns that He will separate out people who refuse take in strangers or feed the hungry. The Book of James says that if you pass a man who is freezing and tell him to be warm and of good cheer, but do not give him a coat, you have done nothing good. Faith without works is dead. The Old Testament warns that he who mocks the poor offends their Maker.

You make me want to work with the homeless so that the experiences below are negated somewhat. Those experiencing difficulties should be helped, not humiliated.

Morgan on June 07, 2018:

Sometimes people post false claims to get attention

roz on March 12, 2018:

i feel so sad about the homeless

KM on January 25, 2018:

I was living in a substandard, toxic basement with a minimal income, and my doctor said I had to move. With what? I asked, and went to agencies for help, sick and coughing from the toxins of home. I wasn't "homeless enough" for aid and given apps for low income apartments that might be available in a year or two. Meanwhile, what was I supposed to do, live on the streets, a disabled, unemployed 50something old woman with bad lungs in the dead of winter?

I ended up with no help locally, left WA for UT for two and a half months. Friend there took advantage of me and we are no longer friends. I lost the small income I had abruptly and had friends help me ship my things back home and fly me home (I didn't ask to fly, she offered it). Had to stay with a friend who let me stay with "future" payment promised, and zero income. Unfortunately, the nearest bus stop was 2 miles from his home, in the country with narrow shouldered gravel roads. Had to walk that each way in job hunting and interview clothes.

Knowing winter wasn't far away, I kept at it, even when I fell and my arm ended up in a sling. A few lucky moments tied to my dad dying the previous winter helped me get by, and I ended up with two jobs.

Having worked at two shelters before, I have been on both sides of the cot. It is not easy and people who have never been there have no idea.

Nikki on December 09, 2017:

I think this article is a great summary as to why people do not stay in shelters. We are in our fourth year of running cold weather shelters in my county. We call them Code Purple. This article has made me examine our policies and see where we can improve and where we are already succeeding. I started working with people experiencing homelessness about two years before Code Purple was in existence and I became the Director. We are a very low barrier ministry. Our sanctuaries are located in churches but there is no requirement to profess or attend any church-related activities. We accept everyone in any condition, whether it be struggles with mental health issues or addictions. We try to keep families together but sometimes that is not possible due to the lack of overnight volunteers. We are totally run by donations and volunteers (no one gets paid). We do have a no pet policy but would try to get someone to foster a pet if necessary. Wheelchair access is difficult as some of the older churches but we have carried a man was in a wheelchair up the stairs so he wouldn't freeze to death at night. Our goal is make a safe haven available to anyone that needs a place to sleep for the night. Obviously, we have to have some sort of intake process to check for any dangers that we don't want at the shelter. It takes a balance of not making it a prison search while also making sure that you don't have anything dangerous on your person. We have had to keep on guard against anyone wanting to come in and take advantage of our vulnerable guests. Thankfully we have had very peaceful seasons of helping people through rough spots in their life. Our volunteers are all trained to be respectful to our guests and I try to give them a basic de-escalation knowledge. We all end up being one big family by the end of each season and after they leave as well. We have a huge lack of resources in our county and 30-day shelter beds are low in numbers. We have around 30 beds max for our county. My goal is to run a huge shelter and help anyone get off the streets. Thanks again for this article. It is very accurate and people need to be educated on this topic.

Homer Les on August 16, 2017:

I wholeheartedly agree with what you have brought up. When our family 'had' to go into a shelter we saw some of these things. Our family was split up, my daughters had to watch a disgusting outburst of a rapist as police dragged him away, we also faced sexual predation, lack of privacy, strict hours among other things made shelters a no-go for us. It has scarred my daughters pretty deep. We wrote about our story here.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/741752

I would never go back to a shelter and would rather sleep outside with my family. Much safer and we are together.

Jean Bakula from New Jersey on January 27, 2017:

I live in NJ and have heard many of the same miseries about shelters. Some Christians have such hubris to suggest any person is in such a position because they "aren't right with God." That disgusts me.

Until jobs pay enough so everyone can afford an apt., the homeless situation will get worse. And any parent who does the "tough love" thing and throws a teen out for a drug problem or being gay, is simply a bad parent.

AnnoyedAmerican on August 30, 2016:

You forget "Not eligible to service" America is really half ASS when it does stuff like government aid. Trying to find a shelter is as hard as trying to sign up for Fasfa. They have 100 reasons why not to give you money, and there is 100 reasons not to take a homeless person.

1.do you have kids

2.Are you a woman with kids

3.Domestic abuse?

4.Are you mentally ill

5.Are you autistic

6.were you an orphan

7.Military Vet?

8.Are you gay

9.Are you a run away of 17

10.is your family poor as well

If you don't meet any of this they can legally say no. Which happens a lot and its fucked up to be so discriminatory if your working with government money! We dont say what sexuality and races can go to the park can we? NO! So why is this different.

Crystal on July 26, 2016:

Actually, yes, we do deserve privacy. This is an objective fact.

And with or without mental illness, privacy is a universal psychological need; lacking it is detrimental to the mental and therefore physical health of every human being. This is why it is always considered inherently abusive to infringe upon someone's privacy.

Kev on April 21, 2016:

I say to open MORE shelters that COMPLY with ADA guidelines, and to completely drop the unnecessary "Pray to stay" or "Work for our thrift store/'rehab program'/whatever in order to stay" requirement. Christian-run shelters have all kinds of discriminatory (and are, sad to say, legal) rules. Muncie Mission (in Muncie, IN), a shelter a friend and I got perma-banned from just this week, has these rules that you're shown in a PowerPoint slideshow that has these obviously discriminatory rules:

[The PPT file looks hurried and cheaply made, BTW. I could do better... but, I digress.]

* (Picture of the serving line) This is where you get your three meals a day. If you need more than three meals a day because of diabetes or other medical concerns, you should look for another place to stay.

* (Meme "Before there was Iron Man / There was Iron Lung") If you have medical or mental health issues beyond the care we provide, you should look for another place to stay.

* (Picture of their elevator) This is our elevator. It can be used ONLY with staff permission [capitalized emphasis theirs], if you use a wheelchair or other medical issues.

* (Picture of breathalizer) You may be asked to blow in this. It MUST read .000 or you will be asked to leave.

* A couple of slides say the same thing about drug use and you may be asked at any time and if ANY drugs are found in a urinalysis, again, they say "You will be asked to leave."

There are others, but some of them contradict with each other.

Going on, they will not let you even have certain things: laptop, even if you are going to school (Someone attending college asked and said it was MANDATORY for their homework,and they said "Oh well, then go look for somewhere else,then!"), cell phone (they're afraid you'll call a drug dealer) or even "People" Magazine or "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition" because they think it's porn... seriously!

And they have confusing rules: If you don't have a job, you're REQUIRED to work at their "New Life Center" EVERY DAY, but if you DO have one, you're asked to "volunteer 8 hours a week," but if you NEED a job and are actively looking for one, how is that even possible?

Oh, BTW, I'm an atheist, and I faked it good enough. I even was asked to lead the prayer at a couple of meals. But a couple of "morning devotional" sessions was mostly 30-minute soapbox sessions to air the b.s. of what he thought was wrong with the world...

TL;DR, some of what he said made me cringe. He thought LGBTQ should be banished permanently "Because God Said So, Damn It!", that there was really NO constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state, we were founded as a Christian country from Day 1 (Uh, WRONG, Dennis [his name]! Section VI of our Constitution AND Amendment I say otherwise!!!!), all a bunch of stuff. I mostly written Linux Bash Shell Scripts in my provided notebook when we were *supposed* to write our "shortcomings" and our offerings to God in them...

And don't get me started on their "Statement of Moral Obligation," a confusing document about "Biblical Marriage".

But all what you wrote is what me and my friend experienced too. And just because we had our reasons, they kicked us out.

Screw them, I've been living on the streets since 2011 and I can survive. These places are 3 hots and a cot with restrictions.

Jane on February 16, 2016:

The Shelters in Dallas TX are awful. Many people would rather live in Tent City (underneath a major expressway in Downtown Dallas) than go to a shelter. Why are the shelters so awful? They are very authoritarian. You have to be in at 2 or 3 p.m. and they lock you in. If you leave out for any reason you are banned. The staff is often rude and abusive. There are major privacy violations as well. Dallas has instituted some type of system where all of the shelters share information with each other and with about 150 other businesses that are suppose to help the homeless. So if you are homeless for one night your name and social security number and other personally identifiable information are shared forever with 150 different agencies and private corporations. Never to be deleted. Also, Dallas Shelters turn over all of their shelter lists to the police. Each night. They give the police the names of people to be searched (even after background checks are ran) by the shelter. How do I know? I have a cousin who is married to a police officer in another city. Her and I weren't speaking for while and she had her husband violate the law and he looked me up and could see every shelter I had ever stayed in, in the State of Texas. There should have been no way he could see this if I wasn't breaking any law. Which I wasn't. But the shelters just violate your privacy. So they frighten many people away. The Bridge Shelter in Dallas forces everyone who stays there even one night to sign away their rights to their personal information and so the shelter can share this with hundreds of different public and private companies. Other shelters do the same.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on April 07, 2015:

You can be certain homeless women get raped at a horrifying and alarming rate in India as well, probably even more frequently and with even fewer repercussions for their assailants.They may even be more likely to be murdered by their assailants. I'm guessing more people are alarmed by the rape of middle class and upper class women no matter where they are than by similar crimes against people of the lowest classes anywhere on earth, even in their own neighborhoods.

Margelia from Culver City, California on April 07, 2015:

I know this is an old article, but I had been looking for something that summed up the major problems that homeless women have to deal with, and this does it perfectly. I wanted something to share on Facebook, because there are so many posts I have seen about the horrifying conditions for women in other countries... Everyone rallies around causes like rape in India, but what about here in the U.S.? The rate of sexual assault among homeless women is simply unacceptable. I cannot believe more is not being done about it. I'm not saying we have the same problem as India, only that their problem is garnering a lot of attention while ours are being ignored. Is it because these women are homeless, and in India average college students get gang raped? Is it more horrifying to people that these women get attacked?

I don't know, but I think there needs to be a conversation about this... Thank you so much for such a well written article. It makes it easier to bring all of this to people's attention when it's presented so clearly and succinctly.

Deb Bryan from Chico California on September 10, 2014:

Thank you! The only long-term solution to homelessness in America will be from-the-heart change in how people are treated across the board. When we are able to treat each other as we want to be treated.

Opinion aside. My experience has shown me being homeless happens to people in all walks of life and all levels of achievement, motivation, and even hard working people find out through disaster or economic shifts suddenly life comes along and everything changes. Displacement is what they call my situation.

Shelters aren't an option for me. I appreciate your presentation and from-the-heart observation.

And, today I found your page because it is LotD on Squidoo's home page. Congratulations well deserved!

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on September 10, 2014:

Not having used a shelter I am horrified at the issues described here. However I am not really surprised. Most people with a good job never think how it is to be out of work and fighting against the prejudices of other ignorant people just like they actually are.

Only after an actual experience of living the life of the homeless can people understand and handle this difficult situation fairly and well. This is true in many areas of life and unfortunately this is the root cause of most of the issues in the Western World. It is ignorance and the fact that what we do not know we do not know can and does hurt us! Good Hub - Today's LOTD on Squidoo

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on July 17, 2014:

@burntchestnut: The biggest problem, in my opinion, is nothing anyone involved with running shelters can do anything about directly. Predators are going to stalk homeless people leaving shelters; they know it's safer for them to choose homeless victims. Society has to change for that to change. Law enforcement has to change (equal enforcement of and protection under the law) to change the phenomenon. Places like underfunded homeless shelters also often don't have the resources to run background checks on workers and certainly not on volunteers. One way to get around these problems would be to have housing assistance programs in place of homeless shelters.

burntchestnut on July 17, 2014:

Homeless shelters have to have money and they have to have volunteers (or paid workers), both in short supply. It's easy to criticize people when we've never been in their situation or have observed the inside of a homeless shelter. The well-run shelters (and with money), provide the homeless with dignity, keep the family together and help training to get a job. I never realized the homeless have to deal with violence or uncleanliness in some of the shelters. But the workers can't tell if someone will be violent, and they certainly can't force everyone to bathe and submit to a physical to see if they have a disease. It's a problem that has always existed, but the public rarely knew about.

ozoneman68 on July 15, 2014:

@lskjk: It's sad that in this day and age where our currency isn't worth even a quarter of what it used to be and so many of the once decent paying jobs having been outsourced that a large amount of people still believe that anyone who is homeless is either mentally ill, a drug addict or alcoholic - or (as is commonly believed in the buy bull belt) they're being punished by "god".

lskjk on July 09, 2014:

I am homeless and also do not have a drug or alcohol addiction. I tried to stay in the Salvation Army shelter and made it one night. At the intake they run your I.D. and make you do a drug test and breathalizer, which to me they were saying that I was a drug addict no matter what. While I was waiting I saw two men come out of a room, one was buckling his belt like they had just did something sexual. The staff didn't care or pretended not to notice. Now, I have a problem with this because I was raped by a man. They put us in rooms with no supervision and the door closed. I barely got any sleep that night. I never tried to stay in a shelter again.

annemarievocalsintallahassee on June 30, 2014:

the only ones that I know of that are clean, are usually battered women shelters with lockdowns.I am looking for a safe emergancy haven myself in Portland Maine till I can get into the Victoria Center.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 25, 2014:

@Vicki_P: The unfriendly pre-meal sermon I recall most clearly was in a shelter run by a Reformed Church. It wasn't particularly nasty but it clearly communicated that the pastor felt homelessness is the consequence of and punishment for sinning. Some pastors even talk positively about the sermon style online. I'll add some links.

Vicki_P on June 24, 2014:

Where I live, no, there's not enough. There are always homeless on both sides where I live (a small urban park in one direction, two major plazas in the other). This city has a large "soup kitchen" but the city itself doesn't help much at all. There are a few other nonprofits that help in the area. I love the lens, it's great. I did want to say, though, that no Christian group I know of would tell you that you're being "punished for your sins," so I don't know what kind-of shelter that was you had experience with. Emmaus Ministries in Chicago may be a good example of a multi-denominational shelter/kitchen that provides love and help, in their case, to men in survival prostitution. (PS - I tried posting this in the debate comment, but it's not working - I tried a number of times.)

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 19, 2014:

@Alison Williams: We have enough vacant buildings in America that we could probably house all of the homeless people in the world very comfortably. Unfortunately, even if the banks that own the abandoned (and now decaying because no one has been living in them and keeping them up) houses and other buildings were to give permission for people to live in them, it would be illegal. Yes, it's crazy.

Alison Williams on June 18, 2014:

I found this page quite enlightening. I always thought of Shelters as a place of refuge and thought that things like theft, assault and rape were more likely to happen to a homeless person on the street. I was aware of drug addicts possibly being in them but I thought everyone had their own room and you could just avoid them for a lot of the time. Last year, my landlord evicted me and I was worried sick at the prospect of possibly being homeless because I was hitting a brick wall all the time trying to find somewhere else. I couldn't move back in with my family because of problems there and the thought of sleeping on a cold, hard street scared me a lot. So I rang shelters but no-one could take me for various reasons such as age or income.Maybe not all shelters have these problems but one way I think might solve problems for the homeless would be to use vacant housing that has just been standing empty for years. Why can't they be converted somehow and temporarily house a few people while they get themselves together?

anonymous on June 10, 2014:

it's actually quite sad that shelters don't provide enough materials and facilities for the homeless, not to mention SAFETY. Being a woman in a shelter would be one of the hardest things I must assume. Great lens, thank you!

jen09 writes on May 29, 2014:

I found this very interesting. My husband works hand-in-hand with law enforcement and often views homeless as lazy, however I am a bit more sympathetic. Your article really brought to light a lot of issues I had not thought about previously. Definitely going to share it (and a few others on the topic) with him

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on May 27, 2014:

@mary-helmers: Those sound like great ideas. Kleenex and bathroom tissue are also always useful. I need to add a bunch of things or possibly create an additional page geared more directly toward making care packages. Please remember to keep safety in mind and take someone along with you when you do something like handing out backpacks. And don't be discouraged if some people seem ungrateful or curse at you. Many such people are either mentally ill or just lashing out because they've been hurt so badly they fear peoples' motivations. Thank you for being a caring person!

mary-helmers on May 27, 2014:

Thank you for your informative and well-written articles! I have copied a lot of the information to put into packs I will now be making up and giving out to homeless men and women I see. Your listing of what is needed is a huge help. To many of the things in your list, I intend to add a couple of toothbrush holders--one for a toothbrush, and one for holding small stuff like a pencil with extra lead and a pen. And also add a few plastic spoons and some Ziplock bags in 2 or three sizes and larger plastic bags with ties. I'm going to see just how many things I can include for $20. Thanks for giving me an excellent way to be able to help. I have wanted to do so for some time, but did not know what I could do other than to offer a sandwich or something of that sort.

sarah-kareem-7 on May 26, 2014:

I am an international student from Saudi Arabia, I feel sad deep from my heart when I see teen or elderly as homeless. Every day I cry when I came home, I appreciate my bed and every thing more than before. Being homeless is not an easy thing at all, May God (Allah) help every single one in this world with financial and health problems. This page is so great

hclyne1 on May 24, 2014:

Having been kind of homeless - I needed to stay in a shelter type accommodation but thankfully here in Australia ours are much better than anywhere else in the world they're LGBTQ friendly, disabled friendly and treat a person with respect and decency and I felt no judgement at the one I stayed at. It's classed as short term accommodation as you do have to pay a weekly rent but for that you got 3 meals per day and a lockable room to yourself. Also our government provides people with various financial assistance depending on your circumstances including a homeless allowance.

Alyssa DeBoer on April 11, 2014:

I had a very bad experience with being homeless and homeless shelters (thank god only for a week). It was one of the worst times of my life. I love your article. I understand ever aspect of all your homeless articles.

Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on April 09, 2014:

I am in the middle dealing with the almost opposite challenge. While we were out of state and working to get back and get our feet under ourselves, my husband's mother was taken and determined as Alzheimer's incapacitated and thrown in a home by a person who for a freaking living, warehouses the elderly.Thankfully we had a home to move into. However then there are things like electricity (we lived for 2 months without - and the place was almost condemned because of that) and food and such.Obviously things are now on the mend and we now have electric and internet and a few other basic amenities. Still working on a car and all.And yet still we have to find the $1500-3000 or so to just get a lawyer to get her out of the home she's got stuck in. So that she can be treated with basic human respect - be allowed to garden and worship and pet the dogs and..simple things. As in she wasn't allowed to make a phone call out for a year. We weren't even allowed to know what facility she was being held in.Wacky stuff.Being homeless or near so is completely demoralizing and astonishing and...just outright a mess. No, I don't have the answer yet. Still trying to figure it out myself. This page...truly hit my heart. Thank you for doing what you do and what you can.

jan-powers-16 on April 09, 2014:

Housing First programs are more of an answer, especially for homeless families. I tried to get into a program like that, here in Los Angeles, but they wouldn't accept me because my mental illness was so out of control. It was difficult to get mental health help while being homeless. My children were taken from me because I was mentally ill and unable to qualify for a program that would stabilize my family. It took me years to get them back, and the entire experience with Children's Services was dehumanizing. The social workers we had were, for the most part, decent people who cared about the children, but the system is simply evil. I was mentally ill and homeless and somehow, it was my fault in the eyes of the "helpers." How does anyone deserve that? I am an atheist partly because religious shelters told me I am a bad person and deserve to be homeless. I could never trust a god that would punish me for being poor because my children's father abandoned us when my youngest was only two months old. I survived, managed to get a bit of an education, and am stable today. Being homeless is horrible, but the way a homeless person is treated is even worse. This is where you find inhumanity hardest at work.

alian1888 on April 08, 2014:

I thought the answer was simple.... Build more homeless centres!!!How ignorantly stupidly arrogant do I feel right now? VERY VERY VERY!!!!I live in New Zealand. I have spent short stints on the street, sleeping under church bushes and other not so great places. I had a mother who beat me when she got pissed with my dad and he took off to get away from her anger issues.Get what I looked too much like my dad. ANYway!I had been offered places to stay overnight a few times and always said no thank you.Never really thought why I said that.In the end the same reason as most homeless people I guess.Pride, fear, would rather do things for myself... no handouts or help needed... OK! goes back to pride I guess.Always thought I'd like to "SAVE THE WORLD" some day.Win big on Lottery (LOTTO). look after myself then help others with the rest. Help build homeless shelters for the homeless etc.NEVER EVER! thought about how homeless people would think about some "know it all" turning up and saying here's another shelter for you to live in, use it!Ignorance is soo bliss isn't it.Right now I'm thinking.... WHAT IS THE ANSWER???????- Has anyone asked a homeless person what they would like?- Do they just want a safe place to spend the night?- Would they accept help that was given (to a degree, forced) upon them?+++ or do they really want a HOME of their own.A small safe place to go home to every night, with nice neighbors who say good morning etc. And know how to treat them like real people.... I know all about not quite fitting in, no matter where you go.It's taken me lots of years ( maybe 20-30) and lots of luck, and eventually to be able to accept the help of some very very good people whom I could trust, just to get to where I am now.I have a partner I love.... Hopefully to be married in a very simple ceremony in September.A rented house that I call HOME!A job I love, that pays a very good wage (in comparison to the minimum wage I've always gotten), and working with people who appreciate what I do... with them and for them when I can. (I like to be helpful).How I got here, I don't honestly know!But I love my life, and the people around me, who make my life worth living.To go from what I have now, to the life I used to live (which even at it's worst was nothing compared to soo many others in this world we live in... Is unimaginable to me know.IN CONCLSION:More homless shelters are not the best answer, but a plaster on the wound of humanitys shame and neglect of what is right there in front of us every day.But giving soo many people a house they can own out right, a place to call "HOME"... a place people can call safe...mine....a sense of belonging, to somewhere special, and to the community they live in.I guess even a cardboard box in an alley, with other people in the same situation can give someone that same or similar sense of home!Or as close as it will ever get for a lot of people.GOD bless the poor, the meek, and the humble... for they shall inherit the kingdom of GOD before the rest of us.Love and best wishes to all those who live simple lives, and struggle in an unkind world, who feel the unimaginable coldness of a winters night in the open.May their hearts always be as warm as the midday sun, and their souls shine brighter than the brightest stars of a clear night.Kindest RegardsAllen Murray Davis

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on April 05, 2014:

I also just tried to like your page, but apparently I am over the limit. I will try to remember to come back tomorrow. Thank you for such an enlightening lens.

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on April 05, 2014:

I have recently been reading up about homeless shelters as I have written a book about a homeless girl - Where Angels Tread - and needed to do some research for it. I wish I had found your lenses, but I did manage to find sufficient information to cover the reason why my fictitious heroine had never used the shelters before - although her experience of a shelter is a good one. I did try to post in your poll but it wouldn't let me.

Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on March 30, 2014:

My answer in the duel module was: "Sadly a huge NO!" but it wouldn't post for some reason. Back when I had a car I was bringing food to Food Not Bombs. I encourage everyone to do what they can to help. Thank you for your good works!

OUTFOXprevention1 on March 17, 2014:

Interesting information! Thanks for sharing.

your-mate-with-a-ute on March 16, 2014:

I have lived on the streets on and off for most of my life and in one form or another. I was ejected from home at age 13 and between foster care, group homes and shelters there was just less conflict to go it alone. I spent time living in cheap hotels but even this was not ideal. Communal kitchen and bathrooms meant possessions were constantly stollen. Unannounced searches of my room by landlords invading my privacy. And some even had no communal kitchen and also wouldn't allow cooking in your room. (Fire hazzard) so you would have to eat in their dining room (expensive) or eat take away (unhealthy and expensive) or as i did just eat 3 dining room meals a week. Rest of the time its bread and crackers.The single best thing that i ever did was to buy a car. Not only did this allow me to transport my belongings from place to place. Without having to leave stuff behind simply because i couldn't carry it. But it also gave me a reasonably secure place to sleep between housing. So much so that it became my preferred option in many instances. Fuel costs are a concern but if you can drive it opens up so many more options for employment. Some jobs are only available because nobody can make the start times due to their requirements for public transport. And there is always pizza or other fast food delivery jobs available. Yes these can place a burden on your home and transport but it can provide a leg up.One time i rear ended someone in my car and wrote off the car. It still ran but the front was totally crumpled. My employer (pizza shop owner) respected my dedication having learned of my circumstances and gave me a loan to purchase and register another very cheap car. That i would pay back as a percentage of my wages for the next several months. People like that are rare and in most instances they wouldn't lift a finger to help someone who is homeless. However someone in that situation who is trying to better themselves. They consider more like themselves and hence feel more obliged to help.Living in a car takes some finesse and planning. If you have work even part time or casual labouring work it makes things easyer. The amount of glass in a car makes it very poorly insulated. Cardboard cut to the shape of each window will help trap the heat in cold weather and keep it cool and dark in the hot sun (pizza delivery is an evening job) paint one side of the cardboard white and the other black. White face out for cool black face out for warm. With a car the issue of charging your phone is taken care of. 12volt chargers are cheap. And with that 12 volt constant power source comes other options. Entertainment is the biggest concern for me. I found myself bored to death sitting in my car all day with very little money. I started out 20 years ago when i first started living in my car by purchasing a pocket telivision. I expanded that to a 12 volt carravan VCR. Later portable DVD players became more affordable. I purchased one recently for $30 it doesn't have a battery and requires the 12 volt power from the car but it works and $1 each for weekly DVD rentals from my local video store provides me with endless cheap entertainment during my down time. An old laptop computer coupled with a power inverter (turns 12v DC into mains power AC) allows me to write out my resumes and application letters. Coupled to my mobile phone i can email and browse the net for other job opportunities.Many years ago i tried using a cooler to be able to purchase food and have it keep. This worked to some degree but milk cartons would move as the ice melted and spill and meat would become waterlogged. I saved enough money to buy a 12 volt cooler and solved the problem of having to buy ice every 3 days. However with this came another problem. The cooler draws so much power and is always running that the battery in my car would go flat. A jump pack solved that problem. I can now jump start my car whenever the battery dies. And if i know I'm parking up for a few days and not intending to run the car i can still get 1/2 a bag of ice and put it in the car cooler. I am now married and have 4 children under the age of 8 my wife and I live in stable rented accommodation and my life has changed for the better. However recently i needed to find a job urgently and there was no job vacancy where we lived. I told my wife that it wasn't a problem i would go to the city and find work. "But where will you live? We can't afford anything!" Was her reaction. " it won't cost me anything if i live out of my car." I replied. I put all my gear in the car and for 4 months i was back living in my car. But the long term history that i have. Having lived on the streets on and of for 26 years i had accumulated all the equipment i would need. So i lived in relative comfort. I don't advise anyone living rough now to run out and buy all the stuff that i have mentioned but if you are in a position to begin acquiring (financially able) or at risk of becoming homeless theres a start point. I recommend a van if you can get one cheap or trade your car for one. The added headroom and flat floor for sleeping on will make you much more comfortable. The toys can be purchased second hand if needed. I bought mine new and knowing that i couldn't afford to replace them have looked after them. Being able to watch the news or an evening movie is a great comfort. And if your up late waiting for the area your in to quieten down so that you can sleep you can watch a movie or surf the web. This also has the advantage that if passers by see you they won't assume your a bum or a hobo living in your car just a business person checking their emails on their way home and not bother calling the police to move you on. A good sleeping bag is life or death don't cheap out on this. Dacron is best value for your money but down is just as warm however takes up less space. (Is useless when wet and looses its efficiency every time it gets wet and is dried) not a good idea if you may end up sleeping outside. Don't waste your money on anything cheaper than $50 you will get a nylon cover stuffed with cotton wool. Great for camping during the summer but useless for roughing it outdoors in colder months. A small stove of some description. Butane if you have the space or solid fuel/metho if not. I would boil a pot of water every night especially in colder weather. And fill both a hot water bottle and a thermos. Wake up shivering cold in the middle of the night. Have a hot chocolate in bed and wonder to yourself about how those poor homed people are managing without this! A great morale booster and a lifesaver in itself. Showers and toilets are the only concern left to cover. I always carry a basin or a crate that can be emptied easily and filled with warm water for a sponge bath between showers. Many shelters or assistance agency's will have showers and all you have to do is ask for one. If they have one they won't refuse you. The other option is truck stops sometimes they charge a small fee or will give you free use with a fuel purchase. Find out where they are and what the deal is. These are usually open 24 hours so you can use them when its quiet and theres no-one around. Toilets i usually tried always to park close to one where i could or if not make use of one when its there. In my area many are closed at night due to vandals. I would keep a roll of toilet paper and a small folding trowel in a bag where it was easy to reach if i had to go. Not pretty but beats messing yourself. That's my story. Hope it helps someone. Or at least entertained you.

John Dyhouse from UK on March 13, 2014:

A very disturbing account of the issues with shelters, the fact that there are not enough is common to many countries and cultures but even if one or two of the other reasons are encountered in each one it is most worrying. I guess that they are always full so often don't see the problems.

Stephanie from Canada on March 10, 2014:

I guessed some of these reasons (especially working hours, pets, and safety), but issues of disease actually hadn't occurred to me. It makes sense, of course. I find the questioning about if you have somewhere else to stay insane. If you had another place to stay, whether it's a friend, boyfriend, or other, you'd probably already be doing that rather than going to the shelter. Fantastic lens with really eye-opening info.

mike-hanson-5454 on March 07, 2014:

What is the reason that shelters often have such rigid check in times? Usually, these check in times are in the early evening, just right around the time some people are working. Shelters obviously provide a much needed service, but, the way that the one's that I have been in seem to want people to be stuck in them.Case in point. If you don't have a regular job, then you are not permitted to work via a day labor place.Ever lived on the streets?It costs money to ride the bus, or to buy gas for your vehicle and if you don't have an income then you'll be doing a lot of walking.Therefore, why don't most shelters make concessions that allow people to work day labor until they have enough money to pay for transportation, cell phone airtime and laundry etc..There are times that I believe that some shelters want to keep people in them because for every person in a shelter allows for money to be spent housing them.If a shelter had all of their clients get employment and thereby leave the shelter, those that run them would lose their jobs.If you ever stay at a shelter, do not by any means list the shelters address as your home address because it is well known in whatever town you are living in.The place that you fill out the application will more than likely not hire you because of the whole shelter/homeless stereotypes.Furthermore, if there is a plasma lab in your city and they know that you're staying at a shelter, they will not let you donate.I am not going to tell you why that is, instead, I invite you to call one up and ask them why they don't let shelter residents donate.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on February 26, 2014:

@yasminbrownmermaiddqueen: I'm sorry to hear that. Please be sure to exhaust every possibility of help that you can. If you live in the US please be sure you've properly applied for assistance at your local Department of Human Services; it's far easier to get help before the homelessness occurs than after. Also, keep in mind that not all shelters are bad, these are just all of the down sides people have found to using shelters in different areas in the US. Not every shelter has all of the down sides and some don't have any.

yasminbrownmermaiddqueen on February 26, 2014:

quite scared now because ill be homeless in 2 days

AnonymousC831 from Kentucky on February 24, 2014:

Fantastic lens, very informative.

augustday on February 24, 2014:

Thanks for this. I never realized that being homeless would be this difficult and complicated.

M. Victor Kilgore on February 22, 2014:

Enlightening

michelle-c-reeves-5 on February 20, 2014:

Intensely informative!! Thank you for the insights and honest perspective on the Homeless subject.

tinastreasures01 on January 30, 2014:

Excellent and educational article. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

inspirationalshortstories on January 28, 2014:

Certainly a heart shuddering read. Also, I'd like to recommend you to read "At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey by Claude Anshin". Thanks

christian reese 5 on January 21, 2014:

This is so sad. I learned a little something about the homeless people thanks to this article. Thank you for sharing your experience. My everyday problems seem so insignificant right now.

Peter Messerschmidt from Port Townsend, WA, USA on January 03, 2014:

Amazing article! I only have the limited experience of living in my car for a few weeks... not really educated enough on the matter to offer any great wisdom.As someone who grew up in Denmark-- a "social democracy"-- I am always appalled by the lack of "safety nets" in the US; there's so little that seems to separate those who are having "a hard time" from a life a life on the streets. And we end up with this "chicken vs. egg" situation where there's lots of crime because people have almost no non-criminal options... the situation is created (and made worse) by the way we-- as a culture-- champion self-reliance, independence and "everyone for themselves," to the point where public assistance is viewed with "suspicion" rather than as a benefit. To answer your question... no, I would not go to a homeless shelter; mostly to avoid the criminal element, which I am expanding to include assault, theft, drug abuse and other addictions having a direct impact on me. When I lived in my car I was actually working, but was out of couch surfing options and at minimum wage couldn't get a place to live (no deposit) for a while... even if this were to happen to me today (at 50-something) I would STILL live in the back of my truck before going to a shelter.

jnnfr4387 on December 02, 2013:

I work in a homeless shelter and frankly I have never been so disgusted. Everyone feels sorry for our down and out guests. I agree that maybe 50% of the people actually need to be there because of mental illness, severe addictions, or just being down and out. But the other 50% are CRIMINALS! These people have rap sheets that are sometimes in excess of 35 pages long. Charges that include: battery intending great harm, domestic abuse, keeping a drug house, habitual criminality, prostitution, contempt of court, multiple DWI'S - some with injuries to others, and on and on!!! They are players and hustlers, show no respect to staff, feel above the rules, and steal from the shelter. They request several of the same articles of clothing and then sell it on the street. They laugh and joke about pimping each other out during the day and then come back with wads of cash in their pockets! It truly disgusts me. i feel like we shelter and feed these people and then they go out and commit crimes during the day. I recently saw a photocopy of a donated check from someone's trust fund for thousands of dollars...I could n't help thinking those poor people have no idea the what kind of people they are supporting. These 50% are homeless because they have burned all of their bridges and nobody wants them anymore. I have no empathy for that!

chrisilouwho on December 01, 2013:

This was certainly eye-openning. Thank you for sharing this.

ShelbyLinMarie on December 01, 2013:

This is very moving. I am a social work major intent on working at the macro community level with my focus on homeless adults. These people are our fellow human beings! They need all of the help we can give them to get back on their way to living a happy quality of life.

NathanThomasTaylor on November 29, 2013:

In some parts of the United States, police officers say to homeless people, "You can go to a shelter or you can go to to jail - make your choice now - we will not allow you to walk around on the sidewalks during daylight hours and we will not allow you to sleep on the ground at night." What they are doing is in effect punishing American citizens for not having the means to rent or purchase living space, because there is little difference between a shelter for the homeless and a jail for criminals. Some of us who have been homeless don't like either of these choices offered to us, so we find ways to evade the authorities. We hide in places where we are not likely to be seen by the police, such as inside abandoned buildings or in heavily wooded areas or in underground drainage systems. Some of us have been known to fake drug or alcohol dependency in order to get into 'sober living' housing facilities. Some of us fake having a mental illness in order to be placed in housing for the mentally ill. Some of us who have had very rough lives choose a final solution - suicide - which ends all pain from hunger and stops the horrible feeling of belonging no place in this world. What we really all need (excepting those with extremely severe mental or physical conditions, who need special help) is a decent job and an affordable place to stay, which is not easily attainable in many parts of the United States at this time. Instead, our nation's politicians give speeches about the 'heroic illegal aliens who only come here for work' and how 'we should never expect good jobs that have been exported to other countries to ever come back to our country.' What our nation needs in order to reduce the need for tax-payer subsidized shelters for the homeless and to reduce overall homelessness is a new generation of leaders - leaders who are aren't all millionaire and billionaire politicians. We need political leaders who come from the lower economic classes. If that seems an unlikely possibility, consider that we live in the internet era, where many societal changes are achievable by people who simply have the will to change the way things are now. Are you one of the people who will use the internet as a starting point to make the world a better place?

anonymous on November 20, 2013:

Very educational. Each of us never know how close we are to being homeless. I am sure these people never thought it would happen to them. Of course not, in my opinion. I don't know the statistics behind this but I just keep my eyes and ears alert, as well as listen to media reports. I think this is an opportunity for non profit organizations to consider in order to restore dignity to those who have almost given up hope. (tried to post this at the appropriate spot but could not get the robot filter to accept)

amirahmed01 on November 17, 2013:

I actually took the time to sit and have a conversation of group oh homeless individuals. To be honest I was sitting down having a conversation for a whole hour! People tend to fear them because they are not "one of them" but they are still people like you and me. And they tell you things that are out of this world!

amirahmed01 on November 17, 2013:

I really enjoyed reading this article! I was on the verge of being homeless and I'm not out of the woods yet. I am poor, but rich in sole haha that's how I always tend to think. Yes, it is a tragic life, but like anything our bodies seem to adjust to any circumstance no matter how bad it is. I used to be able to eat three meals day, but now it is one and sometimes half a meal. But, what I've learned, is that my body adjusts well. Life will always be about survival of the fittest no matter how bad things tend to be.

Lowdown0 on November 12, 2013:

Hello, thanks for your insight, I've been homeless before to, usually did have a job. I smoked weed then but nothing else, I would find spots where no-one was. In Portland Oregon there is a bridge called the Burnside Bridge, and this is where many homeless people sleep every night. I would avoid this place and go to the parks outside of town a bit. Sometimes it would take some creative thinking and could be scary dark and mysterious, but I'd rather be eaten by a monster than stuck on the Burnside Bridge. Thanks again

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on October 29, 2013:

@wer_werf: It's actually cheaper to put a person into an apartment in some areas than it is to maintain a single cot in a homeless shelter for a month!

wer_werf on October 29, 2013:

I dislike the only homeless shelter my county has. It turned away over 3,500 and only 54% of the people staying there are actually from my county. Why they are building a second one it won't be big enough to serve our population. I live in a very rich county and it disguist me that we are not helping our homeless but can help other people's homeless. It can cost tax payers 5 times as much to do emergency and transiting housing so why not just put funding for studio, one, and two bedroom apartments. I vote to either end all section 8 housing or find the funding for everyone that qualifies

WriterJanis2 on October 10, 2013:

This was a real eye opener for me. Thanks for putting this info out there.

Doc_Holliday on October 06, 2013:

Very interesting lens. Thanks for sharing.

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on September 04, 2013:

There are quite a number of homeless people in Tokyo. However I have never seen shelters here like in America. this wasa very educational and enlightening lens for me. Thank you for sharing your story.

QianaMDavis on August 22, 2013:

Very enlightening article. Although this would make me think twice about operating a homeless shelter personally, I'd still like to volunteer at one and do whatever I can to help alleviate suffering of the homeless. I long ago became interested in this matter as a college student reading about whole families who having to live in shelters after the parent(s) lost their jobs then their homes, cars, savings etc. This article gives one a lot to think about and sheds a light on how many issues homeless people face and the problem with the system itself.

anonymous on August 16, 2013:

@anonymous: This would be more of a transitional housing program then a shelter the way you are describing it!

Angela F from Seattle, WA on August 04, 2013:

I am so glad that currently 88% of people in your poll above agree that the homeless are deserving of being treated like humans. You know how important this issue is to me so I'll just send you a big "Bravo" :)

ErikaV LM on July 31, 2013:

Brilliant lens, it takes tons of courage to say all these things when so many amongst us live by the moto "you shouldn't bite the hand that feeds you" -even when that hand feeds you crumbs. Well said, well done.

Gale from Texas on July 29, 2013:

As a Christian I'm really sad to hear that a homeless shelter used their religious services to try to make people feel that God was punishing them by making them homeless. I think the Bible is very clear that we should be wary of labeling another's hardship as "punishment from God." I understand that you don't believe in God, but I just didn't want you to think that was what our faith really taught. Thank you for the article that spread light on so many things I was not aware of about homelessness.

anonymous on July 19, 2013:

@GuruBurt LM: I agree, and it's rare that people can understand this without being in a similar situation.

anonymous on July 18, 2013:

@CrazyHomemaker: Homeless accommodations just need to be redesigned. :)

anonymous on July 18, 2013:

Great article. If i were rich I would create a new kind of "homeless shelter". It would be a community of buildings, Much like apartments. (homeless) People would live like humans: like everyone else. No check in days and no "kick out" days. They would stay there for as long as they needed. Although I would have security for everyones safety and sections for animals (to protect those with allergies). My place would not have a high turn over rate, so it would not have vacancies often, but the resources would be there if anyone needed them. I would ask for professionals to volunteer like veterinarians, and doctors and shrinks and addiction counselors and career finding resources, and I would not make it mandatory to see any of them. I would help those who seek for it, but leave the ones who don't want or need the help alone. I learned of ordinances restricting expansion from your article!! thanks. It's good to know when I design my Community of Hope :P

GuruBurt LM on July 18, 2013:

I was fortunate enough to avoid having to live on the streets after I effectively became homeless. My parents allowed me to move back in with them and stay with them as I rebuilt my life after a separation and divorce when I became unemployed. Without their help I would have been at least couch surfing for a while. Life is wonderful again but without the critical support when I was depressed, financially destitute things could have been very different. There are many reasons good people become homeless. They need your help not your judgement.

CrazyHomemaker on July 10, 2013:

This is an amazing look at homeless shelters. I often thought "If I were rich, I'd create one in my town". Now, with all of the instances you've described, I'd forget it and help out in other ways. Thanks for this lens and all of your other ones, too. Very interesting information!

DtKnight on July 08, 2013:

This a very well thought out, very significant commentary on why homeless people do not use homeless shelters. The current nature of limited habitation is a quality of this world that is unfortunate, especially in light of all the land that is currently available but held in reserve. It says a tremendous deal about any country in the way that it treats its homeless, and your lens is a very good place to start on ways to try to combat homelessness and to also figure out ways to help those in need without in turn harming them, even if unintentionally.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on June 26, 2013:

Very moving account. People forget how close each of us is to being in the same situation. Thank you for opening a few eyes. P.S. Even if you've gotten some ignorant or even down right mean responses, your words will still work on those hearts. I hope you are okay, and I will keep you in my prayers (whether or not you are a believer, you can still feel -- and give -- the love, right?)

chi kung on June 26, 2013:

fantastic piece of writing and very much needed!

LisaDH on June 25, 2013:

You've done a great job highlighting the problems with homeless shelters. We need to do better than this.

nicolekato on June 15, 2013:

This was a great lens that really made me think about homelessness in another light.

blestman lm on June 13, 2013:

Awesome lens about a national travesty. I applied to work at a homeless shelter but I did not get hired -- I guess I was too naïve for at the time

CaztyBon on June 08, 2013:

I really liked your lens I think if more people read the lens it would wake people up to the problems we have in the U.S.A. I know for a fact that a lot of what you wrote is true and I find it disgusting that in this day and age the U.S. would give much needed money to foreign countries that hate us instead of coming up with ways to prevent U.S. citizens from being homeless.

jaclyn-mellon on June 07, 2013:

I was homeless for many many years and in all that time I used shelters twice, and only in dire situations. I did not use them because my pet could not come with me. I was also a minor thrown out by my abusive parents and could not utilize shelters because I was a minor whose parents could not be contacted. There was also my general fear of issues listed above, my stuff getting stolen, getting illnesses and bugs. I was homeless on and off (more on then off) for ten years and I never once got scabbies, I am sure that I would have had I slept in a shelter. Also I did not have identification which most if not all shelters require, I was not able to get my ID for many years because I did not have my birth certificate. But I could not get my birth certificate without ID and I could not get ID without my birth certificate. It was not until I had a child of my own and had his birth certificate to prove who I was that I was finally able to get my birth certificate sent to me!

Takkhis on May 20, 2013:

What a great lens! I hope nobody would be homeless anymore. Thanks for writing this great lens.

anonymous on May 19, 2013:

One of the other things I noticed during a spat of houslessness is that there is a lack of information online about the services these shelters offer, although they are happy to tell folks online how to give them donations.I stayed in a tent in a wooded area outside town and was not bothered though keeping clean was an issue. I still managed to work and save that way.If you look at the websites, the sites have plenty of "donate now' buttons but NO actual description of what to do if you need help. Also, the one thing not covered in the article --- MANY of these shelters such as the Salvation Army and others are starting to CHARGE 5 to 8 USD per night in addition to curfews that are incompatible with getting work.

Margot_C on April 25, 2013:

Thanks for a great article. I did not realize the dangers of living in a homeless shelter. Thanks for enlightening me.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on April 06, 2013:

@anonymous: If the person was a renter, there is no area in America wherein landlords are responsible for the crimes of renters.I never encountered a law that considered guests in the home to be renters after a two day stay. Money has to change hands for them to be considered renters in the United States. If I discovered a renter to have a meth lab set up in her room, I would call the police. If a guest in my house set up a meth lab, I would call the police. Going in and messing with evidence at a crime scene is never a good idea.If you failed to screen a renter it is a different issue. I had a terrible experience with a renter, too, wherein I had to pay for my mortgage on the rental property while receiving no rent for 11 months and, by law, I couldn't get her evicted, during which time she trashed my rental house. I would have never been able to afford to repair it except that I allowed a homeless man who worked in maintenance at a local hospital to stay in it for free while he repaired the damage the former renter had caused. He rented it for four years after he finished and kept right on making improvements and was never late with the rent once I started charging for him to stay.My experiences were much different. The worst experiences I had with taking in over twenty different homeless people into my home over about a twenty year period were that one kid took twelve dollars from my purse and another made long distance phone calls without asking.

anonymous on April 06, 2013:

I have had dealings with homeless people on several levels and tried helping the homeless in different ways. What I want to share is more about how laws are set up to discourage helping those in need rather they are homeless are about to be homeless. When my boys left for college my home became free of space that I was willing to allow those that found themselves in hard times to stay. I learned the hard way that by helping can be very costly both emotionally and monetarily. Although, I have many stories to share I will limit it to this one.I allowed a woman who had become homeless to use a spare room in my home. it didn't take long to realize she wasn't using the room to get on her feet and move on. She had set up a mobile meth lab (which I destroyed and disposed of taking to the local land fill not putting into my garbage). Since she had lived in the room for more than 2 days she had renters rights and used them against me. When I kicked her out the local police showed up with a warrant looking for a lab she had saw. Long story short had I left it I would be in jail. I have been told the items which I destroyed would had put me there for over 50 years. This is the worst case however, all the cases I tried to help ended up just like this one People taking advantage of another persons good nature and the laws are set up in favor of the one needing help so the one in however many that will benefit is left without help because the laws are set up to discourage those in a position to help, help. I live in a house with several extra rooms that I no longer consider using to help not even those I have known. Who can help with the laws set up to the homeowners disadvantage?

chironseer on April 04, 2013:

Hi, me again, I forgot to say that I also worked at a homeless hostel in the UK, only for a few months though, my colleagues were good people, although some of them came from very dysfunctional backgrounds, and had issues with anger and control.because of the need to get workers as soon as possible, the staff weren't always suited to the job. The shift patterns were crazy, 12 hour nights, and days, changing regularly. I don't miss it, although I met some interesting people there.

Angela F from Seattle, WA on April 01, 2013:

Illuminating and true... so much so you've inspired me to write about my own recent experience.

tokfakirmiskin on March 25, 2013:

we are live under the same sun...

Girlwiththorns on March 24, 2013:

Thank you for this insight into an area of life that I have no experience of and which is given little coverage in the mainstream media... The points about gay, lesbian and transgendered folk was particularly illuminating

anonymous on March 19, 2013:

@Kylyssa: Thank you. I will look out for that article. I don't have a car, but I also hope to know how to make the right friends to stick around with. I have the kind of face that looks like "here's a good victim." I can only hope to survive out there if I became homeless.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 19, 2013:

@anonymous: It is. I am actually currently working on such an article. One piece of advice I can give you straight off is to keep a vehicle if you have one. Sleeping in your vehicle is vastly safer than sleeping outside. Another bit of advice is that there's safety in numbers. Make a friend or friends you can trust and stick together. Not being seen is another factor. f no one knows where you are, no one can hurt you. Avoid high crime areas also. If you must use a shelter (and there are good ones in some areas) never, ever call attention to yourself when entering or leaving it. Go to and from it as directly and promptly as possible. Being identified as homeless is the single biggest danger of using a homeless shelter. I will link to the article (which I am still researching) within a week or so.

anonymous on March 19, 2013:

This is very informative. Is there a thread which advises how to protect oneself and sleep outside? I would think it would be very dangerous to sleep outdoors as much as in a shelter. I would like to know how one may protect his or herself sleeping outside. i ask this because I may become homeless in a few months. If this happens, which looks likely, I'm going to buy a ticket to Florida with the little money I have so I won't freeze (I'm in New York, and the winters are too hard). I would try to get public housing if possible, go on assistance and to work, but I need to find out how to survive sleeping outdoors.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on March 16, 2013:

I have thankfully never had to make use of a homeless shelter. Now that you mention the many reasons not to use one it really makes sense.

agagata lm on March 12, 2013:

I am actually ashamed to say that I have never really thought much about it. Thank you for writing about your experiences. It's an eye opener.

Pat Goltz on March 08, 2013:

I am too disabled to sleep outside. I would have no choice but to go to a homeless shelter. I would have to survive as best I could. This information is good; thank you for writing it.

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