What is this intervention?
Homeless shelters are a basic form of temporary accommodation where a bed is provided in a shared space overnight. One of the key features of a homeless shelter is that it is transitional and an option for those homeless who are not yet eligible for more stable accommodation. Shelters are not usually seen as stable forms of accommodation as the individual must vacate the space during daytime hours with their belongings. Homeless shelters often place additional requirements on potential users including night time curfews.
Homeless shelters are not always free, and some shelters will charge the individuals a fee for the bed, while others require that users be claiming benefits from the government. Additional services that may or may not be provided by the homeless shelter are warm meals for dinner and breakfast or support from volunteers who help individuals make connections to other services.
Day shelters for homeless individuals act as a drop-in centre, often aimed towards those homeless with additional needs such as substance abuse, or mental illness. Services may include access to case workers, meals, access to laundry facilities, or support groups. The obvious difference between night and day shelters is that a day shelter will not offer a bed to the individuals who use the services.
Homeless families will also utilise homeless shelters. Although authorities have increased responsibility to rehouse families with children into stable accommodation more efficiently, families are sometimes be placed in a shelter as an emergency measure. When children are residing in a shelter other child services will usually become involved to ensure their safety and welfare. Homeless families will often be provided with additional support such as a case management worker. Homeless families will usually be kept together, so their accommodation will often be a bedsit room or apartment.
Some criticisms of homeless shelters relate to overcrowding, physical altercations, theft, substance abuse, and unhygienic sleeping conditions.
What is its goal?
The goal of homeless shelters is to provide accommodation for people who have nowhere to sleep. Homeless shelters are used to quickly deal with emergency situations such as adverse weather conditions or domestic abuse.
Homeless shelters are viewed as an adequate option for those homeless people who do not have the option of safe, stable housing.
How is the intervention meant to work?
Homeless shelters provide emergency accommodation and refuge for those at the point of crisis. This provision of a bed seeks to protect the individual from adverse environmental conditions and physical or psychological illnesses associated with spending the nights on the streets.