Although the primary use of a homeless shelter is to offer the homeless a temporary place to stay, there is always room for improvement. When you are in the process of creating a homeless shelter or are considering ways to improve one that already exists, a few simple changes can make a big impact the daily lives of people in need.

Gather Information

Your homeless shelter should not only be a place of refuge for clients, but it should be a valuable resource for information and connection to resources for the homeless population. Based on the information you collect from clients, you can best determine the needs of individuals beyond finding a permanent living arrangement. When you are gathering information, you might want to find out the underlying reason each person is homeless.

One problem your clients may face is the inability to apply for government assistance because they do not have an address. You may want to determine if it is acceptable for clients to use the shelter or another facility for their mailing address so they can apply for assistance.

Consider Daily Needs

Although the shelter may not be open during the day, it will help each person to have a few personal care items and snacks they can take with them. Some items you may want to include are a small packet of facial tissues, pre-moistened wipes, disposable toothbrushes with the toothpaste already included, and feminine hygiene products.

For snacks, it helps cut costs by having your shelter make snacks instead of purchasing individual portions. Creating your own trail mix is economical and can be easily portioned into small bags. Bottled water is ideal because it has a long shelf life. If you want to include something special so your clients are not drinking plain water all the time, flavored drink packets and instant coffee are small and can be added to any bottled water.

Find Ways To House Both Genders

Many shelters only accept men or women as a proactive way to avoid violence against women and/or children. Whenever possible, try to find a compromise to allow both genders into your shelter. For example, if your shelter has two floors, only allow men on the second floor. For a single-floor building, men and women can be separated by only allowing a certain gender on one side of the building. Most likely you have people available to help monitor the shelter while it is open. Your volunteers can keep watch to ensure each gender stays in their respective area.

With limited resources, improving the offerings of your homeless shelter can be difficult. Identifying the urgent concerns among your clients and helping with small, daily needs can vastly improve your shelter. For more information on homeless shelters, consider contacting Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities.