How to Run a Homeless Shelter

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There's always a need for more resources to help the homeless. You can give someone a new life if you provide links to job training, housing help and medical care. Some people, though, are reluctant to go to a shelter because they experienced violence, sexual assault, robbery and other crimes while staying in one. Here are some things to think about.

Learn about homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless has fact sheets and reports on its website about homeless populations, mental illness, substance abuse and other issues you need to know about to run your shelter.

Collaborate with other organizations in your community that aid the homeless. Contact all the food banks and soup kitchens in your area. Work with nonprofits that serve women, children, families, the mentally ill and substance abusers.

Contact local businesses and see how they can help. Restaurants can donate food. Retail outlets can give clothes. A health professional can educate the homeless on diseases they should watch out for.

Set rules and stick to them. A curfew can keep thieves from sneaking in and out at night when everyone's asleep. Show zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. Separate single men and women and, to make them feel safer, place the women close to the person on watch.

Have one person in charge of coordinating volunteers. Always have a backup to fill in on short notice for the night shift.

Develop a good relationship with your local police. Make them aware of the rules you've set and how you're going to enforce them. Ask for their suggestions on making your shelter safe.

Hold fundraising events and encourage your homeless beneficiaries to participate. Clothe them respectably and train them on how to interact with those who will attend. Being in close contact with the people they're helping makes a more powerful impression on your supporters.

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