How to Start a Shelter

by Sara Melone
Shelters lend a hand to help people and animals.

If you have ever noticed a need for a shelter in your area, why not consider doing something about it? Shelters provide a save haven for those in need. A shelter can provide emergency housing, food and job placement assistance for homeless individuals and families. A battered women's shelter offers a safe place of refuge for women and children seeking to leave an abusive home. Animal shelters take in stray animals and abandoned pets and give them a place to stay, food to eat and proper veterinarian care. You can start any type of shelter you wish.

Try to meet the needs of your area with your shelter organization.

Assess the needs of your community. Investigate what types of shelters are already available in your area, and determine where the need exists for an additional shelter. Consider your area of interest and the skills you possess to successfully start a shelter. Make the decision on what type of shelter you plan to start based on your strengths and abilities.

A business plan can help you get organized.

Create a business plan for your shelter. Write the details of what services you would like to offer through the shelter organization. Decide if you will offer temporary nightly shelter, or if you will offer extended stays with or without food, medical care, counseling and housing or job placement assistance. Include a suitable location for the shelter in your business plan, and plan out a budget for building remodeling expenses, repairs and monthly operating costs.

Investigate charitable assistance programs for opening a shelter.

Contact other charitable organizations in your area. Meet with owners and operators of other shelters to learn how they conduct business, and ask if they have any tips and advice for you as you get started. Call the SPCA, Humane Society or Department of Housing and Urban Development to find out if there are any assistance programs or financial grants you can apply for that are geared toward your type of shelter.

Always examine the legal restrictions for a shelter.

Secure the location for your shelter. It should be conveniently located and offer the space you need for sleeping facilities as well as common areas and medical treatment areas if necessary. Check the zoning of the property with City Hall or your local Urban Planning Board, and make sure you can legally open a shelter at the location you choose.

Seek advisement on filing the shelter taxes, income and expenses.

Register your shelter as a business with your local business authority. Apply for any applicable licenses and permits that may be needed to operate a shelter in your area. Request a tax id for the business from the IRS. Set up a business checking account funded with your personal investment for the shelter as well as any money from charitable contributions, grants or bank financing. Meet with a financial adviser or accountant who can instruct you on the most efficient methods for keeping shelter financial records.

About the Author

Sara Melone is a mother of three and a graduate of UNH. With prior careers in insurance and finance, photography, as well as certifications in fitness and nutrition, Melone draws directly from past experience and varying interests. She contributes with equal passion to birth journals, investment blogs, and self-help websites.

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