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Why Don't Homeless People Use Shelters?

Updated on January 27, 2017
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Kylyssa Shay was homeless for over a year in her youth; it lead to her activism involving homelessness. She thinks, feels, and has opinions.

Source

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.

Note:

As someone who has worked in homeless shelters, I am very aware that the vast majority of these workers are good people who are doing their best. I am glad that these facilities exist to help people without homes. However, it would be an injustice to pretend that shelters in America are plentiful enough or that they're all safe enough, or free from other downsides.

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. | Source

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. | Source

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. | Source

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Are Current Shelters Perfectly Adequate to Serve the Unhomed Population?

Do you think that current shelters are sufficient in number, quality, and dignity to serve the needs of the American homeless population?

Yes Comments

  • Kylyssa Shay: While this comment by Camden Reed is off-topic, I decided to allow it to be published to help illustrate how misguided religious people can interfere with helping homeless people while acting as if their efforts to stop the spread of information are somehow divinely inspired. Because such comments are rarely civil, I'd like to take the opportunity to publish those that aren't profanity-stuffed so that others can see that such attitudes really do exist.
    Dear Camden Reed,
    What gives you the idea that Jesus wants you to stop writers from spreading information about what homeless people experience and how they can escape homelessness by "politely" asking them to stop thinking and to stop trying to find solutions?
    The Jesus my Christian friends and family members worship is a lot different from your Jesus if yours actually did put you on a quest to silence voices that make you feel uncomfortable. My friends' and family members' Jesus is all about speaking with honesty, helping poor people, and reducing suffering, so they are in full support of my activism. Why don't you tell us about your Jesus and why He doesn't want me to think or help other people with their struggles and explain why you think He's better than the Jesus my loved ones worship?
    By the way, I only published the comment from this particular sock puppet. Your IP address always gives you away when you try to pretend you're more than one person.
  • Camden Reed: Hi, my name is Camden Reed, and I'm a high-schooler, and I'm reading this article to help strengthen my essay on homelessness. I know this might be the last thing you would want to read, but I would feel guilty if I didn't take an opportunity to express Jesus with you! Jesus saved my life a while back, and I know what it feels like to be without him. In my opinion, no one should ever go their life separated from God. I understand what you may be thinking. "Why is this Christian imposing his beliefs on me?" or "Why can't I just live my life and you live yours?" you might ask. Well, it's the role of the Christian to share the good news of Jesus Christ to "all 4 corners of the Earth". I know it's hard to be an atheist when people like me are always ranting about God, but I think (from former-atheist to atheist) every atheist fears that there actually is a God. It's natural. Atheists try to make everything in the world make sense, but they can't. I sure couldn't...
    God is on the move, and He's reaching out to you. If you accept Jesus into your heart, you will never go through your struggles, alone. God will never stop reaching out to you, but don't wait until later to become a believer in Christ. If you choose Christ, today, you'll have one less thing to think about, tomorrow! I believe God is calling you, and as a former-atheist, I think the best advice I can give you is to stop trying to make sense of everything.
    “I am not a genius, I am just curious. I ask many questions. and when the answer is simple, then God is answering.”
    ― Albert Einstein
    “But maybe it's what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith.”
    ― Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
  • Kylyssa Shay: I'm delighted if the information I have provided helps you in any way, even if it just helps you to feel better about the difficulties you are facing.
    The one thing you can do that will give you the greatest possibility of safety is to hang onto your car if you have one. If you don't have a car, find someone you trust who is also homeless to exchange sleeping watches with you.
  • Richard Sittig: I got off-track. What I wanted to say is thank you for posting these articles, they are helping me plan ahead and brought up several things I didn't even consider! I'm terrified for the future but I'm doing what I can despite my own issues to try and ensure I'm not on the streets longer than a month, and your work has helped build the foundation of which I will launch from when that time comes. Thank you!
  • Richard Sittig: I got off-track. What I wanted to say is thank you for posting these articles, they are helping me plan ahead and brought up several things I didn't even consider! I'm terrified for the future but I'm doing what I can despite my own issues to try and ensure I'm not on the streets longer than a month, and your work has helped build the foundation of which I will launch from when that time comes. Thank you!
  • Richard: @Kylyssa Heck, I wish there were more people like you here in Missouri. I started out earlier reading your exhaustive article on what to buy if you are/for the homeless, and wound up here because I had concerns about the shelters especially in my area because it seems my state has some of the worst programs and shelters around. I could be wrong. If you hadn't already guessed, I'm essentially homeless myself; I'll be out on the streets at the end of the month (my birthday, no less. Joy :/). I had a turn of bad luck with former roommates stealing everything I had when I went on a temp work job trip doing landscaping. I sent them most of the money I was making to work on the house which needed a LOT of work, and then come to find out I go home and every single thing was gone except for a couple tore up couches and useless furniture. No idea whatever happened to these guys but it left me with next to nothing and I had already moved there because I lost my landscaping job of 12 years due to the owner selling the business. So yea, I'm down in the dumps.
    I got off-track. What I wanted to say is thank you for posting these articles, they are helping me plan ahead and brought up several things I didn't even consider! I'm terrified for the future but I'm doing what I can despite my own issues to try and ensure I'm not on the streets longer than a month, and your work has helped build the foundation of which I will launch from when that time comes. Thank you!
  • Thomas: When I grow up I hope that will be able to help all the homeless people by making a place that they might like to be.
  • Kylyssa Shay: Please explain how it would benefit, say, your own mother, if your father passed away and she became too ill to work and support herself for you to practice tough love and let her die on the street as older people tend to do when ill? Would you just sadly say, oh, she made her bed, now she has to lie in it, when you found out she'd been beaten and raped as most women suffering homelessness are? Because that is exactly what you are advocating for. You are advocating for the abandonment and suffering of people who are out of their depths and unable to help themselves.
  • Guess Who: I think people are right, enough is enough. Tough love is the key to ending homelessness. Yeah, sure it sucks, but if you're homeless cuz of choices in your life that u made then you need to suffer the consequences and if that means being homeless then that means being homeless. Don't get me wrong it's not that I have no compassion, I do but I do believe that in order for you to turn your life around you need to suffer all consequences for the choices in life that you make. Tough love is the key whether it's homelessness or addiction. God helps those who help themselves..
  • Kylyssa Shay: You and I both know what I've said on this page is true. I'm actually glad people make comments like Irrelevant's because many decent people just don't comprehend the level of hatred some individuals have towards people who are homeless. There's frequently little logic normal people can see in anything people warped by hatred say.
  • The Truth Speaks: This comment is for Irrelevant:
    In your comment of 2 years ago, you said that a lot of the stories you've read or heard about the shelters are fabricated,, & HOW THE HELL WOULD YOU KNOW IF YOU'VE NEVER HAD TO USE ONE!!

    Rhoda: Many people in homeless shelters are coerced into saying that they have a "disability" solely to be able to receive aid. This is true in North Carolina and in Tennessee. I was told "if you do not sign this form saying that you have a disability, we will not help you at the Bethesda Center in North Carolina and at the Bread Of Life Center in Tennessee.
  • Kylyssa Shay: It's also actually cheaper. It costs less to house a person than to maintain a single cot in most homeless shelters. It's safer, cleaner, healthier, and allows for the growth of self-esteem and confidence. It aids in getting more work hours or regaining employment if the person is unemployed.
    But folks don't want the "undeserving poor" to get things they don't feel they are human enough to have.They'd rather have more money spent keeping people in lousy conditions on the theory that if homelessness sucks enough, people will escape it. They don't realize that homelessness already sucks immensely and if people saw the way out, they'd take it.
    Most of the folks I've helped find homes have done brilliantly all on their own once the money issue has been solved. A huge percentage are on the streets for losing everything to medical bills or illness (their own or a dependent's), getting kicked out for being gay, being disabled Veterans the government refuses to help, working at exploitative businesses that do not pay living wages, or due to losing a job from downsizing
  • Speth: People need homes and the support to learn or remember how to live in them. Providing those homes, and the rent to enable keeping them would be an infinitely better solution.
  • Thomas: Yes, the current housing of homeless people is fine. I'll let the author of this article in on a little secret. The accommodations are not supposed to be pleasant, easy to deal with or anywhere on par with a person's actual home. That might encourage them to want to stay in the homeless shelter, rather than re-integrate into regular society with the rest of us. Homeless shelters are not places where people should keep coming back to again and again. Personally, I think that people should be banned from homeless shelters after staying for more than a month. If you can't rebound by then, you're not trying hard enough!!!!!!
  • Irrelevant :A lot of what I've read on here about why people don't stay in shelters are fabricated. And secondly, In Livermore there aren't any shelters for women, unless you have a big fat maggot, then u might get priority to be on the waiting list.
  • Anonymous: Yes, there should be 24 hour services for homeless. However, some of the churches and shelters are adding baking soda to the clients food. Which causes them to not only get full immediately, but causes bloating and high blood pressure. Families are also separated in some situations, due to age. MUCH CORRUPTION takes place through that of circles including staff and advocates slowing you down or stopping you from getting out of these shelters. They assign people to fraternize with family members that are adulthood. They need more professional staff and advocates. These people are unprofessional and disrespect the homeless clients. The clients do not receive much help, staff etc.keep much of the donated items themselves and they do not drive the clients for appointments unless your one of the few that are favored. I have had numerous problems in the shelter. The workers are extremely corrupt. Yes, they need more shelters, but they need investigators on the staff/advocates.
  • Kylyssa Shay: @anonymous: What a rare and wonderful shelter you manage; you have no idea what a good organization you are in charge of if you think it is typical. You should feel extremely proud to work where you do as your shelter displays a degree of excellence uncommon in American homeless shelters. My "irrational" ideas about homeless shelters came from both being homeless once upon a time and using assorted shelters across the US and volunteering in them later when I was in much better circumstances. Some of the things you mention are downright illegal in some cities. Some American cities limit homeless shelters to a certain number of beds far less than 400. A shelter that is allowed to provide beds outside of the night-time hours is extremely rare.Please leave a link to your shelter's information page and I will be sure to promote it in the hopes it will help donations to an excellent homeless shelter. I'm working on a page full of good American homeless shelters to give them the credit that is due and to illustrate how it ought to be done.Just ask the people you serve if your homeless shelter is typical of shelters they've stayed in. I'll bet your shelter is the best any of them have ever found or heard of. I'm not sure how personal experiences count as irrational but I'll bet most of your clients have had similar "irrational" personal experiences in other shelters. Especially ask the lgbtq people you serve if they've ever experienced discrimination or violence outside of or inside of other shelters. You have no idea of what a good job you are doing in comparison to what's out there.
  • Anonymous: I have worked at a homeless shelter for many years and can say this person has irrational ideas about homeless shelters. I'm sure there are people who shouldn't be working in a shelter because they lack the compassion needed. We serve roughly 400 a night in a clean, safe environment. We have zero tolerance for any aggressive behavior. We make accommodations for physically challenged. We don't discriminate for any reason. We make accommodations for those working third shift to sleep during the day even though we are a night shelter only. We allow people who are impaired due to drugs and alcohol to stay as long as they behave. We have an extremely clean facility, no bug infestation. Our intake process is very respectful. We always strive to treat our guest with respect and dignity.
  • Kylyssa Shay :@kadymitchell: Many people who are poor now had children when they were not. Many upper-middle class people such as yourself think it is impossible to lose a job or to have a child or spouse get ill or injured enough to wipe out their savings but they are wrong; insurance does not cover what you think it does. Unless people have a few million dollars in the bank there's really no way to be sure they will always have money. That is how people such as yourself end up homeless. You are one major illness or accident from homelessness now or in the future unless you have at least a million dollars in the bank. Everyone is very shocked when it happens to them, especially the folks such as yourself who think poverty equals moral bankruptcy. I hope you never face the situation but the only way many people dead set on the idea that poverty equals being a bad and stupid person is when they experience it themselves. If an upper-middle class family becomes poor after they have children, what do you suggest be done with those children? It isn't as if God makes the children "didn't happen" or magically whisks them off to a rich family when a spouse dies or leaves, or if a child or parent gets so ill or injured that savings get wiped out, or when jobs get lost when the jobs cease to exist. Would you give up your children if you suddenly became poor?The truth is that many families do not step up. They believe poverty equals stupidity and moral bankruptcy. They tell even their sick, elderly parents, "you made your bed, now lie in it" after those parents did things like putting them through college, giving them the down payments on their first houses, and providing free childcare to their children. In working with homeless people, I encountered very few people who had children after they were poor and many who had children before illness, tragedy, or a rotten economy struck. Most were earning middle-class or upper-middle-class wages just like the folks you think should be allowed to have children when they chose to have children. They were just like you before really rotten stuff happened in their lives- no better, no worse.
  • Kadymitchell: Yes, no matter how many are built there will never be enough...so many people have just given up. Families have to stick together and help one another. People have to learn if you cannot afford to have children, then don't because it's not the governments responsibility to raise them.
  • Anonymous: No. God says to help those in need. Also you never know when that stranger comes along in need of a meal or a warm coat. Could be Jesus in disguise
  • Anonymous: I say that, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, and all you people in homeless shelters treat all the homeless people very, very badly it just needs to stop people are dying everywhere because all of you workers in homeless shelters are selfish, I may be a 16 Year old but ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
  • Mannasugar: Shelters treat people very badly, and they do this to discourage people from wanting a free ride.
  • Anonymous: Esvoytko is a man after my own heart. There is no reason why someone, especially a family, should be homeless. What a disgrace. Whatever happened to the common good? I live in NYC and there are thousands of working families who are homeless. This is a very complex problem and only a person with pathology problems would prefer panhandling to permanent shelter. No wonder we are in this situation. Public policies must address the social and economic issues that creates this problem instead of focusing on a few miscreants and punishing those who really need help.
  • Mowug1776: Some people have given up hope completely. I myself at times have as well the problem is not that there's enough beds find that the American people have lost their love for each other we are too greedy to see that we should wait and help others out there for buying the brand-new Mercedes-Benz that we may not be able to afford in a couple months. Also that excuse could also be put out because they don't want to help themselves I have started to help out at a mission. I find that many of them may have even shows the lifestyle in actuality at the mission there is one man that comes in who actually is a real estate investor and quite frankly because of his sorrows drains himself to the point that he himself is homeless. He happens to be a veteran Delta force I believe if we can help the road may be harder than he may have a will to change. What we need is more family helping family.
  • Kylyssa Shay: Math alone proves that more than 10% of homeless people successfully re-integrate into society because otherwise, we'd be overrun with tens of millions of homeless people! There are far more formerly homeless people than homeless people living in America. Over 80% of Americans who experience homelessness get into homes and do not experience homelessness again. Math alone also shows us that there are not enough homeless shelters. When there are more homeless people than beds, there will be homeless people who can't use them no matter how much they might want to. I don't know if you've driven past any homeless shelters lately but here in Grand Rapids the lines for them wrap around the buildings. The number of shelters and beds also keeps decreasing all while the number of homeless people increases. Math also shows us that some people will inevitably be left without jobs (and become likely to become homeless) when the number of adults in our country exceeds the number of jobs that exist. That's not even taking into account the number of jobs out there that are too part-time to live on.Over a period of about eighteen years I took in seventeen homeless teens and young adults, three couples, a man in his fifties and a woman in her sixties. Out of those twenty-five people, twenty-one succeeded in re-integrating into society. That's around the typical 80% mark. Perhaps you are having such a terrible success rate because you are focusing on panhandlers and chronically homeless folks? And, since you gave an anecdote about a couple refusing to stay with you because you separated them, you just backed up one of the reasons I listed.I'm secure in the knowledge that what I say here on this page about homeless shelters is true. I've personally witnessed most of these problems and, on occasion, I had to enforce some of these policies I disagree with while volunteering in shelters. I've learned of the other issues from other volunteers and from homeless and formerly homeless people.
  • ClifRad: Yes. I work with the homeless and I've had over 100 live in my house with my family over the last ten years. They were right off the street.Very few want to get back into the mainstream. Probably only 10% I've dealt with. It is way too easy to make it on the street with pan handling, feeding programs, food cards, SSI, state programs, hotel vouchers...And the reasons you gave for them not using shelter is bogus. They are most generally rebellious and anti-social, that's is a great generalization. Like I said 10%.We had a couple, rather than be at our house where couldn't sleep with one another in there on room, choose an outhouse in town. Go figure.They need help and that help needs to given rightly. You work you eat. You want to play the game your on your own.
  • Donnette Davis: I'm not in USA so I am not qualified to comment, but here in SA there are very few shelters.. in fact I cannot even think of one in the city in which I live - and it is the State Capital!
  • Tropicalmonsoon1: Well, I don't live in the USA, but here in New Zealand you don't see homeless people having to sleep on the streets. Except for the famous ones!
  • FuzziesFriend :"The poor, ye shall always have" No matter what's done, it'll never be enough.
  • Ghandisbrothercarl: I understand why people always defer to the "starving people in Africa have it worse" line when they hear a fellow American complaining about anything regarding their living conditions, but I swear (rather than coming from compassion and consideration) it actually contributes to treating homeless and down-on-their-luck types heartlessly, and perpetuating the ignorance of the considerations you've just listed.
  • MargoPArrowsmith: I worked for a while on Saturdays doing intakes in the local state mental hospital. The men who came in without a discharge home would be discharged 'to the street' but they wouldn't do that with women. The doctors would keep them there sometimes for months, just because they had no place to go. So they would discharge crazy men and sane(r) women would be kept there as an involuntary homeless shelter.
  • Speth: People need homes and the support to learn or remember how to live in them. Providing those homes, and the rent to enable keeping them would be an infinitely better solution.
  • Thomas: Yes, the current housing of homeless people is fine. I'll let the author of this article in on a little secret. The accommodations are not supposed to be pleasant, easy to deal with or anywhere on par with a person's actual home. That might encourage them to want to stay in the homeless shelter, rather than re-integrate into regular society with the rest of us. Homeless shelters are not places where people should keep coming back to again and again. Personally, I think that people should be banned from homeless shelters after staying for more than a month. If you can rebound by then, you're not trying hard enough!!!!!!
  • Irrelevant: A lot of what I've read on here about why people don't stay in shelters are fabricated. And secondly, In Livermore there aren't any shelters for women, unless you have a big fat maggot, then u might get priority to be on the waiting list.
  • Anonymous: Yes, there should be 24 hour services for homeless. However, some of the churches and shelters are adding baking soda to the clients food. Which causes them to not only get full immediately, but causes bloating and high blood pressure. Families are also separated in some situations, due to age. MUCH CORRUPTION takes place through that of circles including staff and advocates slowing you down or stopping you from getting out of these shelters. They assign people to fraternize with family members that are adulthood. They need more professional staff and advocates. These people are unprofessional and disrespect the homeless clients. The clients do not receive much help, staff etc.keep much of the donated items themselves and they do not drive the clients for appointments unless your one of the few that are favored. I have had numerous problems in the shelter. The workers are extremely corrupt. Yes, they need more shelters, but they need investigators on the staff/advocates.
  • Kylyssa Shay:@anonymous: What a rare and wonderful shelter you manage; you have no idea what a good organization you are in charge of if you think it is typical. You should feel extremely proud to work where you do as your shelter displays a degree of excellence uncommon in American homeless shelters. My "irrational" ideas about homeless shelters came from both being homeless once upon a time and using assorted shelters across the US and volunteering in them later when I was in much better circumstances. Some of the things you mention are downright illegal in some cities. Some American cities limit homeless shelters to a certain number of beds far less than 400. A shelter that is allowed to provide beds outside of the night-time hours is extremely rare.Please leave a link to your shelter's information page and I will be sure to promote it in the hopes it will help donations to an excellent homeless shelter. I'm working on a page full of good American homeless shelters to give them the credit that is due and to illustrate how it ought to be done.Just ask the people you serve if your homeless shelter is typical of shelters they've stayed in. I'll bet your shelter is the best any of them have ever found or heard of. I'm not sure how personal experiences count as irrational but I'll bet most of your clients have had similar "irrational" personal experiences in other shelters. Especially ask the lgbtq people you serve if they've ever experienced discrimination or violence outside of or inside of other shelters. You have no idea of what a good job you are doing in comparison to what's out there.
  • Anonymous: I have worked at a homeless shelter for many years and can say this person has irrational ideas about homeless shelters. I'm sure there are people who shouldn't be working in a shelter because they lack the compassion needed. We serve roughly 400 a night in a clean, safe environment. We have zero tolerance for any aggressive behavior. We make accommodations for physically challenged. We don't discriminate for any reason. We make accommodations for those working third shift to sleep during the day even though we are a night shelter only. We allow people who are impaired due to drugs and alcohol to stay as long as they behave. We have an extremely clean facility, no bug infestation. Our intake process is very respectful. We always strive to treat our guest with respect and dignity.
  • Kylyssa Shay:@kadymitchell: Many people who are poor now had children when they were not. Many upper-middle class people such as yourself think it is impossible to lose a job or to have a child or spouse get ill or injured enough to wipe out their savings but they are wrong; insurance does not cover what you think it does. Unless people have a few million dollars in the bank there's really no way to be sure they will always have money. That is how people such as yourself end up homeless. You are one major illness or accident from homelessness now or in the future unless you have at least a million dollars in the bank. Everyone is very shocked when it happens to them, especially the folks such as yourself who think poverty equals moral bankruptcy. I hope you never face the situation but the only way many people dead set on the idea that poverty equals being a bad and stupid person is when they experience it themselves.If an upper-middle class family becomes poor after they have children, what do you suggest be done with those children? It isn't as if God makes the children "didn't happen" or magically whisks them off to a rich family when a spouse dies or leaves, or if a child or parent gets so ill or injured that savings get wiped out, or when jobs get lost when the jobs cease to exist. Would you give up your children if you suddenly became poor?The truth is that many families do not step up. They believe poverty equals stupidity and moral bankruptcy. They tell even their sick, elderly parents, "you made your bed, now lie in it" after those parents did things like putting them through college, giving them the down payments on their first houses, and providing free childcare to their children.In working with homeless people, I encountered very few people who had children after they were poor and many who had children before illness, tragedy, or a rotten economy struck. Most were earning middle-class or upper-middle-class wages just like the folks you think should be allowed to have children when they chose to have children. They were just like you before really rotten stuff happened in their lives- no better, no worse.
  • Kadymitchell:Yes, no matter how many are built there will never be enough...so many people have just given up. Families have to stick together and help one another. People have to learn if you cannot afford to have children don't because its not the governments responsibility to raise them.anonymous: No. God says to help those in need. Also you never know when that stranger comes along in need of a meal or a warm coat. Could be Jesus in disguise.
  • Anonymous: I say that, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, and all you people in homeless shelters treat all the homeless people very, very badly it just needs to stop people are dying everywhere because all of you workers in homeless shelters are selfish, I may be a 16 Year old but ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
  • Mannasugar: Shelters treat people very badly, and they do this to discourage people from wanting a free ride....
  • Anonymous: Esvoytko is a man after my own heart. There is no reason why someone, especially a family, should be homeless. What a disgrace. Whatever happened to the common good? I live in NYC and there are thousands of working families who are homeless. This is a very complex problem and only a person with pathology problems would prefer panhandling to permanent shelter. No wonder we are in this situation. Public policies must address the social and economic issues that creates this problem instead of focusing on a few miscreants and punishing those who really need help.
  • Mowug1776: some people have given up hope completely. I myself at times have as well the problem is not that there's enough beds find that the American people have lost their love for each other we are too greedy to see that we should wait and help others out there for buying the brand-new Mercedes-Benz that we may not be able to afford in a couple months. Also that excuse could also be put out because they don't want to help themselves I have started to help out at a mission. I find that many of them may have even shows the lifestyle in actuality at the mission there is one man that comes in who actually is a real estate investor and quite frankly because of his sorrows drains himself to the point that he himself is homeless he happens to be a veteran Delta force I believe if we can help the road may be harder than he may have a will to change. What we need is more family helping family.
  • Kylyssa Shay: Math alone proves that more than 10% of homeless people successfully re-integrate into society because otherwise, we'd be overrun with tens of millions of homeless people! There are far more formerly homeless people than homeless people living in America. Over 80% of Americans who experience homelessness get into homes and do not experience homelessness again.Math alone also shows us that there are not enough homeless shelters. When there are more homeless people than beds, there will be homeless people who can't use them no matter how much they might want to. I don't know if you've driven past any homeless shelters lately but here in Grand Rapids the lines for them wrap around the buildings. The number of shelters and beds also keeps decreasing all while the number of homeless people increases.Math also shows us that some people will inevitably be left without jobs (and become likely to become homeless) when the number of adults in our country exceeds the number of jobs that exist. That's not even taking into account the number of jobs out there that are too part-time to live on.Over a period of about eighteen years I took in seventeen homeless teens and young adults, three couples, a man in his fifties and a woman in her sixties. Out of those twenty-five people, twenty-one succeeded in re-integrating into society. That's around the typical 80% mark. Perhaps you are having such a terrible success rate because you are focusing on panhandlers and chronically homeless folks?And, since you gave an anecdote about a couple refusing to stay with you because you separated them, you just backed up one of the reasons I listed.I'm secure in the knowledge that what I say here on this page about homeless shelters is true. I've personally witnessed most of these problems and, on occasion, I had to enforce some of these policies I disagree with while volunteering in shelters. I've learned of the other issues from other volunteers and from homeless and formerly homeless people.
  • ClifRad:Yes. I work with the homeless and I've had over 100 live in my house with my family over the last ten years. They were right off the street.Very few want to get back into the mainstream. Probably only 10% I've dealt with.It is way to easy to make it on the street with pan handling, feeding programs, food cards, SSI, state programs, hotel vouchers...And the reasons you gave for them not using shelter is bogus. They are most generally rebellious and anti-social, that's is a great generalization. Like I said 10%.We had a couple, rather than be at our house where couldn't sleep with one another in there on room, choose an outhouse in town. Go figure.They need help and that help needs to given rightly. You work you eat. You want to play the game your on your own.
  • Donnette Davis: I'm not in USA so I am not qualified to comment, but here in SA there are very few shelters.. in fact I cannot even think of one in the city in which I live - and it is the State Capital!
  • Tropicalmonsoon1: Well, I don't live in the USA, but here in New Zealand you don't see homeless people having to sleep on the streets. Except for the famous ones.
  • FuzziesFriend :"The poor, ye shall always have" No matter what's done, it'll never be enough.
  • Ghandisbrothercarl: I understand why people always defer to the "starving people in Africa have it worse" line when they hear a fellow American complaining about anything regarding their living conditions, but I swear (rather than coming from compassion and consideration) it actually contributes to treating homeless and down-on-their-luck types heartlessly, and perpetuating the ignorance of the considerations you've just listen..
  • MargoPArrowsmith: I worked for a while on Saturdays doing intakes in the local state mental hospital. The men who came in without a home would be discharged 'to the street' but they wouldn't do that with women. The doctors would keep them there sometimes for months, just because they had no place to go. So they would discharge crazy men and sane(r) women would be kept there as an involuntary homeless shelter.

No Comments

  • Evan R. Murphy: Very good article that sheds light on some of the realities of homelessness and shelters. Helps folks like me who have never been homeless understand better, and could be used by people working to create better shelters or to improve the conditions of existing ones. Thank you!

  • EM: If you are in a position to need a shelter bed, chances are you have burned your bridges with family and friends due to drug abuse, violence and untreated mental health issues.
  • Kylyssa Shay: The problem with using the police to determine identities is that most homeless people aren't criminals so they aren't in the system.
    Loss of ID is a terrifying experience for people without homes. It causes all the problems you mentioned plus it presents an additional danger to Americans of Mexican or Hispanic descent; they could potentially get deported if they can't prove their citizenship.
  • Claudia: I challenge anyone to walk into the county clerks office without any personal identification give them your name and SS# and have them issue you new ones .
    This poses a serious and in many cases life threatening problem for the homeless. Without the proper Identification they are not able to get any assistance, such as shelters, food, housing, cash and medical care. Even job applications require ID"s
    Would it be possible for local police departments to set aside a day or two a few times a year where homeless people could come in and get their identity verified by either fingerprints police files or even a police officer that has seen proof of their id . Then give each person a temporary photo id that they could use to get a permanent state Id
  • Resident: Homeless shelters do falsely accuse people of drug use and criminal activity. I was assaulted by a woman in the Bethesda Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her name is "Valeria" and her case manager lied for her and took her side just so that the social worker (case manager) could have the money credit for placing her in a new apartment. She is a sexual predator and the case manager is as well. The manager of the shelter also took the side of the female assailant.
  • Jason: I'm homeless right now, after spending 10 years working abroad I became ill and was repatriated to the United States.
    I was happy for the medical treatment I received, but after 3 weeks and a clean bill of health— thank you sir, goodbye! I had to leave with nowhere to go. After being gone for ten years, I had to start from scratch. 35 degrees outside and all I had was the t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops I wore when I was returned to the States.
    What I, and probably many others truly need are: A place to take a shower, an address to use for mail, canned food that we can store. No "shelter emloyees" ruining your job search. Or ruining your job, for that matter. Do they not understand that it's not a good thing to go to your new boss and ask for a note so you can go back to your homeless shelter after hours so you can work a normal shift?
    The problem is, shelter employees know that in order to expand their operations (and get more government grants) is to house a larger homeless population. Now although they can't "make" more people homeless, they can "keep" more people homeless by not letting them have a job. Or throwing them out as soon as they get one. I've seen it happen twice now (once to me).
    We need clothes, a place to shower, and an address to use for mail. That's pretty much it. I won't stay in a shelter for the reasons listed above as well as in the article. A big thing for me is theft, and being around people who use drugs increases the chance of me losing stuff like work shoes -- and ultimately losing my job.
  • ionkosmic: BIG NO unfortunately . Just take a look at Greece. Things are really difficult there for homeless people and refuges because very simply the people that create the government are useless and not human. I really feel shame and pain for what is going there.
  • anonymous: It varies quite a bit by place within the US. In Ft. Lauderdale FL they were impossible to get into. In Indianapolis IN I got forced to use a men's shelter (hurrah transphobia) when I finally got into one, in which I was robbed and raped, of course. Meanwhile deaths and mutilations from cold were ongoing outside. To my chagrin, I'll very shortly find out what being homeless in New York is like.
  • anonymous: Definitely NOT! I didn't know of the ordinances preventing expansion... it seems like cities would rather house people and to keep their cities looking good, than to force people to live in the streets...
  • lilydanne: You speak the truth sadly a few of these people who still feel like the homeless deserve it even if they were to become homeless they would still possibly feel this way I think it a coping mechanism
  • Kylyssa Shay: @ajtyne: People are not usually required to convert, just to sit through a service and look interested and/or to say "Amen" at the appropriate points. They also usually won't escort a person out for not saying "Amen" or for not looking interested during the service but they will often question them intensely. I usually just sat through the service about what bad people homeless people are and looked interested and said whatever they wanted me to. But I don't have a religion so it wasn't anything terrible. It was mostly Christians with other beliefs (like that Jesus forgives and loves everybody and that God doesn't purposely punish people with or for being poor) who objected or felt awful. So it was really a Christian on Christian kind of unkindness for the most part and there was no converting to be done because most people I met on the streets and while volunteering were Christian. But it really hurt them to be told they weren't good enough Christians or that they were flat-out bad Christians or not really Christians that God was choosing to punish.There's no need for you to apologize on behalf of other Christians for requiring lip service or for discriminating against LGBT persons. The vast majority of mainstream Christians aren't doing these things and you certainly aren't. There are far more Christian victims of that behavior than people doing it.Actually, in most shelters, the cost of maintaining one "bed" for a month is equal to or greater than the cost of a two bedroom apartment into which four people could be housed, at least in Michigan. It would never be discussed because homeless people have been put into a category as "undeserving poor" and our society would not go for it. It would be too much like helping a homed person stay in housing which many people have no problem with. So they'd rather pay more for an unsafe situation than allow that kind of help to be provided. Charities and organizations using a "housing first" approach have seen huge success in getting even chronic homeless people off the streets and eventually paying their own way. But there are a lot of opponents to housing first programs.
  • chi kung: Dignity is the first that is not present at these places, nor is fair treatment unfortunately. Most "workers" here hate their job, they just do it for the money - not a great situation which shows up in their attitude towards the homeless...
  • AJ: I say NO to every part of your question. I do not have your experiences as either a shelter seeker or a shelter worker, but it takes a very perfunctory check to show all your points to be true. I think, from my experiences talking with homeless people in Philadelphia, that one thing that would help the situation a lot is psychiatric care. I have also read that the homeless problem grew suddenly because of cut backs and laws that no longer permitted people to be hospitalized against their will. Now, psychiatric hospitals would be another hot issue for me, but I still think that a person who is in need of psychiatric care cannot always be capable of realizing that. And families absolutely MUST be kept together. I already knew that men were often not allowed to stay with their wives and children, but did not know until reading your lens that boys as young as 13 are considered "men" and forced away from their mothers and siblings to sleep at a men's shelter where their lives could be in danger. I think now homelessness is surging again because of the economy. I have seen so many people that I know online only who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless, and I have gone through that danger, although not to the point of homelessness, thanks to a relative. I am shocked to read that prayers and such are required. Are you saying that they require people to actually "convert" or adopt the particular religion (I'm assuming you mean Christian but not sure)? Or are you saying that people FELT that it was being required? I must tell you that it is so completely against everything Christianity is about and everything our Lord Jesus stands for to say that homelessness and all the related problems are punishment. In the New Testament, Jesus was questioned about this. They asked Him, who sinned, this unfortunate person or his parents, for him to end up in such a bad condition. He rebuked them and told them plain and clear that it has nothing to do with sin. Repeatedly. Homelessness, rape, drugs, violence. These are evidence of the general human condition. These are NOT EVER punishment for sins. God may remove some of His protection (for lack of a better way of saying it), allowing bad things to happen as a sort of wake up call -- this is what people mean (or should mean) when they claim America is under God's judgment. But God does not punish individuals in this way or even nations. That is not what is meant. It is so often misinterpreted. I feel so bad to think that people who should be seeing the Love of God in action are feeling the wrath of people who call it the wrath of God! That is not the Christian way. Alas, many people call themselves Christians but are not -- or have no understanding of the ways of Christ. I believe the only hope is to make private apartments/hotel rooms, which of course would never be even discussed because of the cost and security issues, but I believe they could be if people would address these problems and force lawmakers to discuss them. They fling money without having a good grasp of how or where it will be used, and if they see something not working the knee-jerk response is to withdraw money. I am a Christian and I am so sorry that you were so poorly treated by anyone naming the name of Christ.
  • CaztyBon: No, I know there are many homeless families and they don't have enough shelters for them.
  • anonymous: My brother caught TB in a shelter. He also told me about being given blankets at bedtime that the shelters only washed once per month which resulted in things like scabies and lice. He too ended up choosing the cold hard streets over an alleged comfortable warm bed. I, myself remember a shelter I stayed in when I was 20 years old. At the front desk was a sign that said, "You did what you wanted to get here and now you'll do what we want to stay here". No, I didn't. I was running from an abusive relationship. After 33 years I still remember the words of that sign. I am now homeless again, after 33 years. I'm on the streets and not even thinking of seeking a shelter bed because I have a small dog who wouldn't be allowed in.
  • waynekat: I don't live in america but I would doubt there are enough shelters, especially now... Thank you for an eye opening lense. I didn't know....
  • chironseer: Hi, great lens, I was once forced to sleep rough on the streets for a week in amsterdam, and on one of those nights I stayed at the salvation army hostel, which was really a big hall with most of the people in it out of their minds on some drug or other.It was the most dangerous place I've ever stayed for sure, I much preferred the streets.
  • EsotericAllusion: What an excellent article about a subject which concerns me. My son recently told me, that homeless people would come into the building where he worked seeking help as they did not want to go to the homeless shelter due to drugs and fear of violence. What can we do about such a problem in this group of vulnerable people?
  • KFairweather: Group shelters are inherently dangerous and the entire paradigm should be rethought. Better is a model that works like a motel or old motor lodge. Separate rooms, with varying number of beds, cabins with two or more rooms for families, trailers homes (although after working with the FEMA housing program for a decade and a half I find trailers to be sub standard housing), cottages and even uninhabited lost-mortgage homes. There was a pilot home building program in Louisiana after Katrina where actual homes were built for disaster victims. And with the amount of money that was spent on temporary housing and trailers, building a new home for each registered victim would have been cheaper. We have some kind of idea in this country that people don't deserve to live well unless they live in a certain, accepted way and are lucky enough to maintain that life. Homelessness is not a disease that is contagious, it is a condition caused by the standards of our culture. is a national shame that we have so many unoccupied homes due to greed and malfeasance, illness, unemployment and other reasons and so many people without homes for many of the same reasons. Pure logic says, put those people in those homes. Banks are losing money with repossessed homes sitting empty, being robbed of copper and other materials, being vandalized, burned and destroyed. Neighborhoods lose value with empty homes sitting on their streets. If nothing else, it would behoove mortgage holders to pay homeless people to occupy these homes until they are sold just to insure they are monitored and kept from the dangers of vacancy. In the long run, it would solve so many problems, it seems obvious. But, we have a cultural imperative that says, homeless people don't deserve standard housing unless they get it the way their neighbors get it. It's shameful to see families on the streets when there are places for them to live and the only reason they aren't there is because their neighbors would be jealous.
  • Finn Mauritzen: That fact that there is even a need for homeless shelters is an abominable symptom of a sick society.
  • Jillynn: They are largely warehousing people while stripping them of their individual humanity.
  • Pat Goltz: Of course not. And services to get people back on their feet are sorely lacking, too. People who can game the system aren't usually homeless, but they may be taking money they're not entitled to. It's a huge mess. This is why I think churches and charities should be allowed to offer whatever help they desire, without government poking in their nose, and why I think government is not designed to dispense charity, but on the contrary, is clueless about it. Refusing to let people use necessary devices is insane and cruel.
  • kimadagem: No, they are not sufficient, in any of those ways.
  • makorip lm: No, from the amount of homeless people I see and read about here in Seattle, the demand is far greater than what is provided. Nobody deserves to be homeless.
  • Perrin: There need to be more of them. I worked briefly in a homeless shelter about 16 years ago. After only 3 months, l left - disillusioned. I only saw a crutch being provided, not any real help for people to get out of the situation they were in. Not all shelters are like that, but I think many still are.
  • anonymous: NO, FREEZING TO DEATH OVERNIGHT IN WAIST HIGH SNOW IS THE END RESULT.CHURCHES MUST OPEN TEMPORARY DAY SHELTERS NEEDING ONLY TABLES, CHAIRS, PHONEBOOKS and writting paper with pencils. HOMELESS NEED TO USE THE CHURCH ADRESS AS AMAILING ADDRESS TO APPLY FOR BENEFITS,
  • anonymous: From what I am reading it sounds like a disaster! Bugs, beatings, families, disabilities and more clearly need to be addressed! If it were I, I too would not stay in a shelter. We need section 8 type housing for ALL people who need it and help to rehabilitate those who are able and want to work. The police are really upsetting to me! They need to be trained to respect and PROTECT ALL people! Shameful country we live in.
  • anonymous: No!! Many years ago I spent some time helping in a Salvation Army Employment Agency. I got acquainted with these men and women who where looking for work and a safe place to sleep and something hot to eat. I know the problem now is greater than it was then. I have helped prepare meals in the local family shelter. Until I read this article, I still did not realize all the problems and the treatment of the homeless. I am appalled at man's inhumanity to man!! My husband works hard, I am disabled. We are only a few paychecks from homeless as we have no savings to fall back on. That we spend billions helping other countries while we have so many in need of help in our own country is horrible. Children go hungry over the weekend when not in school where they can get breakfast and lunch. Our church is part of the backpack buddies that sends a backpack home on Friday with food they can fix or open themselves over the weekend. Imagine if you could not feed your children. I do understand there is some abuse, just as there are rich people who abuse the system to be richer, however, I think America should be ashamed of how it treats it's citizens that are having tough times!!! Have you been cold lately? Have you been hungry? Have your kids? Do you have a warm, dry place to sleep? Do you have a warm coat, a place to bathe, clean clothes? Is there an organization in your town that helps the homeless? Do they treat them well? Do they discriminate against, women, children, the handicapped? If they do a good job, help them! If they don't, find a way to get them to do a better job! All of us could do more to help. Even if it is just helping out, cooking and serving a meal, donating clothes, etc., whatever is needed. Get some friends or organizations that you belong to involved in helping. If you were suddenly homeless tomorrow - what would you want or need? Help provide those that are with those things.
  • anonymous: No. There should be homeless shelters for NON DRUG USERS AND NON ALCOHOLICS and familes with separate rooms. If you have a low paying job the shelter should cater to your working schedule. The object is to help people get back on their feet. Homeless shelters for ill people should be different as well as for drug users.
  • anonymous: I work at a Transitional housing unit for formerly homeless people. I have heard similar reasons why clients don't use the shelter, I have to agree. I feel better security is needed at shelters, it would be difficult to sleep if you are afraid your belongings will be stolen or that you will be assaulted. Our facility takes donations of all kinds, when people bring household items for our clients it is much appreciated.
  • AlyxAndreaDesign: I am a case manager at a woman's shelter and I think my shelter has made a dramatic shift towards applying harm reduction techniques and trauma informed care so I hope we are doing enough to avoid some of the negatives listed above. Amazing list by the way. Very thorough. We do turn people away do to lack of room though. It should be noted that this is very new for us. Up until 2 years ago we turned people away extremely rarely. The recent economy is causing more and more people to experience homelessness for the first time. We do not turn anyone away if it is below 22 degrees regardless of the numbers. One staff to 35 women can get pretty hairy but we do the best we can to avoid people freezing to death.
  • anonymous: There is a great need for funding for homeless shelters I feel more shelters are needed, and also the homed peopled need to be better educated on the homeless situation, so they can understand that being homeless can happen to anyone. I know I was homeless back in 2000 with my son, who is now 19 years old and a freshman in college, for 10 months in Durham, NC. People treat you pretty bad and take cold hearted advantage of you and your situation. I could not stay in the shelter in because it was awful. So I worked 2 jobs and lived in the Red Roof Inn with my son, my cat and my dog. It was the worst time in my life.
  • MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose: Especially now, this year with the Sandy Storms and shootings, and piles of snow, and stranded vehicles, more people are homeless than normal. I have known many people personally who have had no place else to live, due to circumstances out of their control, myself included. Sometimes, the safest place is outside, alone, in nature, where no human can harm you...nuff said.I really appreciate all the work it took to put together this tremendously useful lens about homeless people. I feel very strongly about somehow, someway all of these vacant houses in the world could be put to better use to lesson the burden, I will continue to dream, write stories about it, and help out how I can. They are the most courageous people I have ever known. When I had no place else to go, they fed me, helped me find a place to stay and showed me a better way of life to learn about if I wanted to. I did, and, that road to recovery was well worth the trip. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. Thank you!
  • montanatravel52: ABSOULUTELY NOT!! Based on my own personal experiences, homeless shelters are quite useless and often just a hindrance to the problem... we as a society need to start taking the problem SERIOUSLY, and not just create band-aids... thank you SO MUCH for sharing your experiences and feelings, so moving!
  • maryseena: It is sad that a country like America considered to be a land of opportunity has so many homeless.
  • anonymous: I am currently homeless and the city where I live does not have a yr round shelter out in Amherst Massachusetts. It is only open 5 months out of the entire yr. It is a wet shelter that houses all types.But very limited 16male cots only 6 female cots.It is not a sanitary place showers are not enforced and linen exchange rarely happens. The town manager of the area believes that after the winter is over the homeless dont matter its warm out they can find a way to survive and refuses to accept a yr round shelter in the town.They do not provide nutritous meals soup and a sandwich 6 days a week and pizza on one night. They have a doctor who comes in one night of the week which is okay for the ones who dont have their own doctor.The shelter does not let guests in until 9:30 at night no matter how bad the weather is even if it's below zero or even freezing. I appreciate having a place to sleep but more services could be provided one being more responsible staff.Sometimes there are not even enough towels for people to shower with. I also have a service dog for mental health issues and he resides with me at the shelter. and no not because the staff or caring I had to go the legal route getting police involved etc. I am gratful for being off the streets but in the same aspect more could and should be done
  • Sam Montana: Excellent article. As the economy continues to be poor, rents are increasing and wages are low and stagnant and more and more companies are hiring only part time employees, the need for better homeless shelters grows. There are different segments and reasons for homeless people. Alcoholism and drugs are of course one reason. The very poor economy is another. Since the 2008 economic collapse, people and families that are working and still have become homeless has increased. Something needs to be done..
  • anonymous: Of course not. It's easy to judge or be indifferent towards the struggles of a homeless person. This is one of those things that most people won't care about or understand until it happens to them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but those who voted yes to this poll are not in touch with the life of the unfortunate.
  • lookupphonenumber: Places like New York and similar need more.......
  • anonymous: I would say they're Insufficient. Because, lack of resources.
  • anonymous: i think there culd bemore homeless shelters should not have as many rules as they do they should b a ble to eat and sleep in the homeles shgelter and not have to goto church or anythint like that that goes against an amendment
  • anonymous: no there are many that won't take you where i live if you are not their religion and there is no shelters that will let my husband and i stay together..we can't find jobs in the town we are living in we are in a tent but it is getting very cold out we just want a place to live so that we can get back on our feet..
  • anonymous: The main reasons people are homeless is b/c of central banks, big government, destruction of the family and crappy public education. Government needs to stay out of it and GOOD PEOPLE need to step up and help their neighbors. People need to avoid debt and SEEK for education (education can be FREE if you know where to look for it... books, internet, libraries etc) It is interesting to note that it is not only RICH people that are greedy... but many poor people are greedy too b/c they covet that which they do not have. There are so many leeches who will not work b/c they want everything handed to them. Envy drives people to buy things on credit, which is slavery. This lack of morale for hard work, selfishness and not living within one' means raises taxes for those who DO work and want to be self sufficient. Rising taxes on businesses causes unemployment b/c payroll is always the first cut. This leaves many hard working familes without jobs... thus they lose their homes and end up homeless as creditors take everything away from them. All b/c of greed from above and below them. Homelessness will only rise as the middle class disappears. And the almighty government will whisk them off to FEMA camps when the time comes.... mark my words.
  • Kylyssa Shay: @julienc: I think a lot of people who live outside the US have that impression. However, the US has the largest population of homeless people of any developed country.
  • Kylyssa Shay: @julienc: In America, there are only enough beds and shelters for about ten percent of homeless people. Chicago alone would need to have about ten thousand beds in homeless shelters but it doesn't even come close.
  • julienc: Because the usa is a big place there will be lots of good homeless shelters for homeless people to go and sleep and eat.
  • julienc: Why some homeless people do not use shelters is because they can be dirty. Some homeless shelters are not good enough to serve the american population but some homeless shelters are good and have the dignity to serve the american population. Also america is a big place so there will be lots of good shelters that homeless people could live in if they choose to.
  • anonymous: no way... there needs to be, not only a place to sleep, but a place to bathe and a place to seek medical help.. There needs to be more love and less judgement.
  • lionessprotector: I don't thint that more or better shelters are the answers. They are run just like the government. No matter how much money they get, the administration costs cause too much bloat for them to actually have enough funds to help anyone. Their restrictive curfews make it impossible for anyone to take whatever job they can get, and the worst are the domestic violence shelters who tell women that they have to get counseling to figure out why they 'allowed' themselves to be abused. The only answer is to start teaching survival skills at a young age, and lobby for the right to more public campgrounds.
  • OMENA777: Most homeless shelters are lacking funds, and space. We do not have enough resources to meet the needs of working people that cannot afford housing. They are now our "new Poor"
  • sentanta lm: Thank you for pointing out the complexities of this issue - I didn't really think of many (or any) of these concerns. I don't know if shelters are the solution; it seems like there needs to be more of a comprehensive approach taken to homelessness all around.
  • Shadow11: no they are not very sufficient in cleanliness or very good at serving the needs of the homeless people that live there. I know of only two shelters where i live here in texarcana one you have to pay in order to live there and the other the staff uses drugs so in my opinion people that work there should not be able to use drugs if there going to work there and they need to obey the same rules that the others have to. I think the staff need to set a good example for the others.
  • Mark Shirbroun: No, the demand far outstrips the supply and as you pointed out there are a ton of (good) reasons people avoid using the ones that do exist. I think it is one of our failings as a culture to not provide adequate resources for the homeless.
  • homelessink: "If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday's fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem." Buckminster Fuller/ Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
  • Normyo Yonormyo: In a civil society shelters should not need to exist as everybody should be able to live save inside or outside of a home.But as we are only just letting go of our savage habits, we should see to it that there are enough shelters of the right kind of quality for all the kinds of homeless people out there. That would at least be one step closer to a civil society.
  • daniel1030: It is terrible. First of all the staff. Often the staff has been homeless themselves, but instead of having empathy, they are rude, ignorant, little turds. You are treated like a criminal simply for not having money. When I went to a shelter, they treated my multi vitamin like a controlled substance. I have a gal bladder problem, and I need fish oil or else I can't use the restroom regularly. The number 1 reason really is lack of space. They make you stand in line starting at 11 AM for many shelters. How can you get a job if you are standing in line for a bed all day? When you do get in, parasites. AWFUL!! MISERABLE!! Truly CRAWLING with parasites. Might as well just sleep outside...What a tragedy. Lazy, ignorant, mother-F'ers.
  • microfarmproject: We have some excellent organizations where I live and my sister-in-law has been very involved with several of them. I think it is good to have organizations that cater to specific homeless populations, such has seniors or families, as their needs are very different. A relative of ours is homeless, and the situation is very complicated and frustrating.
  • askwirl: Man you nailed it.. Right on! The problem "no vacancy" even if you have rent money its so very hard to find an affordable hovel, The YMCA nationwide has stopped renting rooms, and a lot of low end rooming houses/Hotels have burned down nation wide and have not been rebuilt. How about creating CAMPSITES with ruining water or building rooms with baths for folks that want to pay some rent but NOT $500-800 a month
  • hundsdorfer: Homeless shelters are inadequate, they are also a poor solution. We need to do more to get people into real homes. Probably half the homeless people I meet have a serious long term disability. Many are veterans with trauma issues. A significant portion have a serious mental illness--and not just alcoholism or drug addiction. A good number are just out of jail--because we've criminalized poverty and leave those with criminal records no alternative. The rest of the people suffer from low self esteem and depression. Truly, many people end up homeless because of bad decisions, but when we look at the loan sharks, liquor store owners, tobacco executives and the like, why does society reward the enablers of bad decision making so lavishly while punishing the decision maker (who is often impaired) so grievously?
  • anonymous: No, and it wll be a long road until they are. I was a Salvation Army officer for 34 years serving in OH, MA, NJ, PR & VI, Buenos Aires, Argentina and other places. I remember one occasion when stationed in Manhattan walking to headquaters on 14th St. when I saw a young woman sleeping on the sidewalk. It was winter, cold. As was my custom, I stopped, asked her name, if she was homeless, hungry. "Yes, she was." I asked if she had been to Social Services at The Salvation Army. She said she had and that she couldn't be placed. Mmm, I this was interesting. I told her, "Well, if you are willing to come with me, I am the Colonel and I will see to it that you are placed in a shelter." It turns out that the problem wasn't that she couldn't be place but that she couldn't be placed with her boyfriend. She would have had to go into a woman's shelter and he in another. They refused to be parted and would rather brave the cold together. Though the Army has family sheters they are not equipped for this situation. I understood her dilema and my it broke my heart. I asked if I could buy her a meal but she was waiting for her man to return. A, "God bless you" had to suffice. No, it was not enough. We can always do more to meet and serve the needs of the homeless. Not only with dignity and quality but meeting the needs of the individual's unique situation regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation-with understanding and unconditional love.
  • SunhiMistwalker: I don't think we have enough shelters that cater to families with children. Too many families have to go without emergency shelter because much of the emergency housing is designed for individuals with no children. I also think that some shelters fail to serve the homeless in a dignified way because many people look down on the poor. Until we change our attitudes towards the impoverished the quantity and quality of homeless shelters won't improve.
  • AnnMarie7: Absolutely not. The staff and rules at the homeless shelters that I've been in are horrible. Not everyone has a choice about being homeless, and if one was raised in a decent home, suddenly being homeless is quite a shock. I don't know about other cities, but in my city, the available homeless shelters back in the late 90's, early 2000 were quite insufficient to serve the number of homeless, and the staff members were rude. Safety was always an issue.
  • janet-mcconnell: Another thing about shelters: some don't even have doors on their bathroom stalls and shower stalls. As a homeless single mom, I'm outraged that even my son has to shower with adult strange women. My daughter has gone to the bathroom at night to find two women making out. And talk about loss of dignity and respect, try doing this with kids. They know that when you have kids, you really need the place. They feel they can treat you any old way. They disrespect you right in front of the kids. And you have to bow to them. Right in front of your kids. And just as they assume you're a junkie, they also assume you're a lousy mom and don't deserve your kids. They tell you how to raise your kids, right in front of your kids. And the shelter called Joy Junction in New Mexico has mats on the floor about 5 inches apart. And your 12 year old daughter just may have to sleep by some strange man, becouse you sleep on the mats they assign to you. And they cut costs by having people in their so called program doing most of the running of the shelter. And to people who say there is so much good social services out there, if you call waiting a year for an apartment help, whatever. And a welfare check in nothing. I started to just say no to so called services that collect millions in donations by convincing the public that they are so nice and helpful, when in reality they are a nightmare. I wil never subject my kids to that again. And I've seen how they are when they are fixing to give a tour of the shelter to a news team or a group of donors. It's so dishonest. It's simply outrageous.
  • anonymous: I doubt it. Much needs to be done to make homeless shelters a haven for those who are homeless.
  • esvoytko lm: As long as there is *anyone* who is still not sure if they'll have a roof over their head on a given night, I'd say we are blowing it as a country. My plan: allow the homeless to commandeer the vacation homes of all the rich scoundrels who have TWO houses. I am quite serious!
  • Talktomeuk: I mean Im not American I live in the Uk, but my sister was homeless for some time, bearing in mind I didnt know about it until earlier on this year. She was homeless years ago. Your lens has helped me to understand what people without homes go through. I now understand why my mum used to volunteer at shelters, feeding the homeless. It would appear from your lens that no there arent enough shelters with decent security and health measures. I can only assume the same for the UK. Its quite disgusting that 1st world countries like the USA and the UK even have homeless people let alone shocking shelters. Thank you for helping me to understand the plight of the people living in poverty and why people choose to live on the streets. Il try not to purposely avoid people on the streets, and I might even treat them to a burger or something rather than give them change.
  • anonymous: Based on what you say I would guess not. I've never been homeless so my opinion won't matter much but I think it's like mowug1776 said on the other side of this fence. I think there are problems that are much less obvious or tangible to get a grip on. I think it's these problems that serve as the soil from which others grow like homelessness and the state of homeless shelters. I'm not an american and again have never been homeless, but living in africa all my life I see first hand the truth of this matter. That technology, productivity and education can do only so much. It can make the world a better place but it WILL NOT make human being anything other than what they are.
  • Tolovaj Publishing House: No, they are not and they will not be until we as society start admitting everybody can become homeless and do something about it.
  • hlkljgk: not only are they inadequate for the numbers they are inadequate for quality of life. it's a bit of an embarrassment how we treat the homeless in this country.

  • MCB2011: If they are not meeting the needs of the homeless and promoting hope, they are not being useful. Are they regulated by state or federal?
  • Titia Geertman: I'm Dutch, so in no position to express an opinion about the shelters in the USA and in the area where I live there are no homeless people as far as I know. Only thing I know is, that due to today's economy, more people will lose their homes and that's a terrible thing to happen, specially when kids are involved.
  • ChrissLJ: No. I live in a town of over 100.000 with several homeless shelters, and we still have too many people who live on the street. They have also created multiple homeless campgrounds in the wooded parks and abandoned grounds around town because they have no where else to go. This is not safe either as there have been violence and even a murder in the last few years.
  • Zut Moon: I don't quite know the situation in the US as I am Canadian but I can not understand why such conditions should exist in 2 countries which are leading the pack in terms of wealth and prosperity. What the heck are we doing wrong?
  • Angela unLocked: I have never been homeless, but a friend of mine stayed two nights at the local shelter before I brought her home with me. We have only one shelter in our town and it houses men, women, and children. However, I did not feel that my friend or her children were safe. She even said that she felt belittled by the staff and felt unsafe because she could not lock the door to her room. She has four children under the age of 11. I was not permitted inside to help her move her things, which is understandable due to privacey issues. Homeless shelters are a good thing, but I think there need to be more.
  • timo5150 lm: of course not but its because this way of thinking has become acceptable and common place in the USA " Its fine to spend billions of my tax dollars on war but don't you dare spend 1 dollar on those lazy needy people" and until this way of thinking changes back to (help thy neighbor) then we are stuck with under funded programs like this
  • Deadicated LM: I'm on unemployment and it's running out my greatest fear is winding up homeless; we need to do more to help in a down-turning economy, I hope those who are in a position to will donate to causes that help feed and shelter people.
  • Anonymous: I to do not live in the US but I work as a Support Worker to people that face homelessness, I see that another person from SA made a comment we do actually have shelters, but nothing is over publicised, so many homeless people would not know where to go. In my job what I try to do is set up a person that is likely to end up homeless in a rental house with other people that have faced homelessness. This usually works out well as there is never more than 5 people living in the home and because they have all experienced hardship, they tend to get along a lot better than even most husbands and wives. There needs to be more rental accommodation available to these people and I think this is the best alternative. They get to have a place that they call home, they all share in the rent, power, phone and because they usually make really great tenants, there is generally no complaints from neighbours. And your right this can happen to anyone and people need to learn to be a little more understanding.

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.

If you were homeless would you be reluctant or feel some apprehension about using a shelter?

See results

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?

Homeless people should be grateful for any help, no matter the dangers or indignities required to receive it.

See results

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

Do we need to build more homeless shelters and help the ones that already exist?

See results

About Comments

This article has received some very angry responses. Please, before sending hate mail or leaving an angry comment, read the whole page. If you want to use the comment section to express your disgust, please refrain from profanity or your comments will not be published.

Comments do not appear immediately. Due to the number of comments with swearing or threats in them that this article gets, the comments are moderated. Your very much welcomed comment won't show up until I have a chance to see the notification in my inbox and approve it. I am not always at my computer so sometimes this can take a day or longer.

© 2009 Kylyssa Shay

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    • profile image

      Homer Les 3 months ago

      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 profile image

      Jean Bakula 9 months ago from New Jersey

      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.

    • profile image

      Crystal 16 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Kev 19 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Jane 21 months ago

      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 profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      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.

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      Margelia 2 years ago from Culver City, California

      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.

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      Deb Bryan 3 years ago from Chico California

      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!

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      Stephen J Parkin 3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      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

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      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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.

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      burntchestnut 3 years ago

      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.

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      ozoneman68 3 years ago

      @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".

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      lskjk 3 years ago

      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.

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      annemarievocalsintallahassee 3 years ago

      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.

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      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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.

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      Vicki_P 3 years ago

      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.)

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      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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.

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      Alison Williams 3 years ago

      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?

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      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!

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      jen09 writes 3 years ago

      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

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      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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!

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      mary-helmers 3 years ago

      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.

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      sarah-kareem-7 3 years ago

      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

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      hclyne1 3 years ago

      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.

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      Alyssa DeBoer 3 years ago

      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.

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      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      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.

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      jan-powers-16 3 years ago

      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.

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      alian1888 3 years ago

      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

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      Loretta Livingstone 3 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      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.

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      Loretta Livingstone 3 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      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.

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      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      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!

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      OUTFOXprevention1 3 years ago

      Interesting information! Thanks for sharing.

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      your-mate-with-a-ute 3 years ago

      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.

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      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      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.

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      Stephanie 3 years ago from Canada

      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.

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      mike-hanson-5454 3 years ago

      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.

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      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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.

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      yasminbrownmermaiddqueen 3 years ago

      quite scared now because ill be homeless in 2 days

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      AnonymousC831 3 years ago from Kentucky

      Fantastic lens, very informative.

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      augustday 3 years ago

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

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      M. Victor Kilgore 3 years ago

      Enlightening

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      michelle-c-reeves-5 3 years ago

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

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      tinastreasures01 3 years ago

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

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      inspirationalshortstories 3 years ago

      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

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      christian reese 5 3 years ago

      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.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 3 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      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.

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      jnnfr4387 3 years ago

      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!

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      chrisilouwho 3 years ago

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

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      ShelbyLinMarie 3 years ago

      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.

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      NathanThomasTaylor 3 years ago

      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?

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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)

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      amirahmed01 4 years ago

      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!

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      amirahmed01 4 years ago

      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.

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      Lowdown0 4 years ago

      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

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      Kylyssa Shay 4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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!

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      wer_werf 4 years ago

      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

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      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

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

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      Doc_Holliday 4 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Thanks for sharing.

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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      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.

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      QianaMDavis 4 years ago

      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.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

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

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      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      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" :)

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      ErikaV LM 4 years ago

      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.

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      Gale 4 years ago from Texas

      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.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

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

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      anonymous 4 years ago

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

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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

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      GuruBurt LM 4 years ago

      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.

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      CrazyHomemaker 4 years ago

      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!

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      DtKnight 4 years ago

      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.

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      sheilamarie78 4 years ago

      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?)

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      chi kung 4 years ago

      fantastic piece of writing and very much needed!

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      LisaDH 4 years ago

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

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      nicolekato 4 years ago

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

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      blestman lm 4 years ago

      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

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      CaztyBon 4 years ago

      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.

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      jaclyn-mellon 4 years ago

      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!

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      Takkhis 4 years ago

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

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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.

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      Margot_C 4 years ago

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

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      Kylyssa Shay 4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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?

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      chironseer 4 years ago

      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.

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      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

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

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      tokfakirmiskin 4 years ago

      we are live under the same sun...

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      Girlwiththorns 4 years ago

      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

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @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.

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      Kylyssa Shay 4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @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.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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.

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      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      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.

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      agagata lm 4 years ago

      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.

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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      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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      kimadagem 4 years ago

      Wow. It's about time someone talked about this. I'm glad you did.

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      TL Stahling 4 years ago from US

      This was very enlightening and I had no idea. Thank you for sharing.

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      MooshkaDaisy 4 years ago

      I haven't imagined that there are so many problems with homeless sheltering. I completely changed my view on homeless people in the streets. Thank you very much for this lens!

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      kab 4 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I read this and thought of this page - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/tuberculo...

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      Gardener Don 4 years ago

      The idea of JennyLynn's below is a great one - & something we should investigate, as from your experiences it's obvious our present system is not so good.

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      Expat Mamasita 4 years ago from Slovakia

      Thank you for bringing the problems of homeless shelters to a wider audience.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      We should build small rooms for rent like Japan does called capsule hotels. They are clean, cheap, and small. You can sleep in a safe clean bed, get a shower every day, and go about your life. This would eliminate 80% of the disease and homelessness in the US because people could work and live like this until they could afford better housing.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you so much this helped a lot for my video documentary on homeless people...