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Disadvantages of Homeless Shelters

Updated July 19, 2017

Homeless people live in parks, cars, fields, condemned buildings and other unsuitable areas. Some of the homeless even sleep on sidewalks. Many cities and organisations have established shelters to aid plight of the homeless. Despite good intentions, organisations that provide homeless shelters must be vigilant to avoid unintended consequences. Without vigilance and supervision, the shelters meant to help the homeless may do the opposite.

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The homeless living in shelters may risk exposure to disease. Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most threatening because it is contagious, and members of the homeless population are more likely to have the illness than the rest of the population. Shelters without adequate ventilation, sanitation standards, or readily available tissues may contribute to the spread of diseases. Personnel assigned to the shelter must enforce standards of hygiene and cleanliness and should also be screened for illness and disease prior to working at the shelter.

Bugs and Germs

Bedbugs are another threat to the safety and health of shelter residents. To prevent infestations and the spread of infection in shelters, staff personnel instruct residents to discard items that may be infested with bedbugs (or other insects) and to cover their mouth when coughing.

Regulations to Ensure Safety

Homeless people seeking refuge in shelters may require protection from other occupants of the shelter. Crime and disorder can create living hazards. Personnel should respond to the residents' needs and ensure a safe, secure environment. Shelter residents may suffer from mental disorders that cause unacceptable behaviour. Individuals who may pose a threat in shelter include illegal-substance abusers, individuals engaging in criminal behaviour, and those without medication to control violent impulses. Those who will not conform to shelter regulations should not be allowed to stay.

Short-term Solutions

A homeless shelter provides a living space for the homeless population, but the living arrangements provide little privacy. Some homeless avoid shelters because they find the rules, regulations and lack of privacy too restrictive. Harsh weather, rain, wind and cold may force the homeless to seek refuge, but shelters are a temporary solution. Ultimately, the homeless person needs to find permanent housing. Many homeless require long-term support and assistance that shelters do not provide.

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About the Author

Miriam Breeze, a freelance writer since 2009, is a 12-year Marine Corps veteran and was a merchant mariner for five years. She specializes in health care topics and has published articles on and She has a Bachelor of Science in nursing from National University and a California registered nursing license.

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