Homelessness is becoming more than just a problem in most local communities. More and more people are losing their homes, jobs, and families, finding themselves out on the streets begging for a second chance. Millions of these people are struggling on a daily basis and it’s important we help any way we can. One of the boldest ideas to help is to start a homeless shelter in your town or local community.

Unfortunately, there are more homeless people than shelter space, but starting your own can help level the scales. Here is a guide on how to start a homeless shelter and the proper steps needed to take to make it a successful project.

homeless kitchen

General Information About How to Start a Homeless Shelter

Starting a homeless shelter is a very noble decision. You are providing one of the most vital necessities of life that some people would not have otherwise. In general, there are three different types of homeless shelter you can create: an emergency shelter, a day shelter, or a family shelter.

11 Steps on How to Start a Homeless Shelter

1. Put a Mission Statement Together

A mission statement is a great way to start putting your shelter. In the statement, you can outline what your goals and intentions are for the project. Clearly, in this case, it would be building a shelter, you would need to provide a detailed layout of what amenities the shelter would provide, what kind of employees you would need, and what certifications would be required to start setting up the shelter.

2. Decide What Kind of Nonprofit Organization You Plan To Create

Believe it or not, no two nonprofit organizations are the same. Each nonprofit has their own different set of laws and regulations pertaining to banking information and building property. Not to mention, a board of directors is required to start a nonprofit. The most important factor to remember when creating a nonprofit organization is that when it is approved, you are no longer held fully liable and it will be its own entity. When most people realize that, it’s a load of stress off their back.

3. Construct A Business Plan

When figuring out how to start a homeless shelter, perhaps the most important step is making a business plan. Not only will a business plan expand on your initial mission statement, but it can provide a much more detailed layout of budgets and milestones. This will help keep your project on track as well as providing a better idea of what your startup cost might amount to.

4. Choosing a Location

Choosing a location can be one of the hardest aspects of building a homeless shelter. Mainly due to the fact that it entirely depends on your community. You have to make sure there is an actual spot in your town where you can set up a shelter as well as setting up rent deposits to buy or lease the property. In order to file the appropriate paperwork, you will need the full address of where your shelter will be located.

5. Remember To File Your Taxes As Exempt And Deductible

That’s right, no taxes for you! One of the biggest perks of starting a nonprofit is that you don’t have to pay taxes on it. Instead, remember to mark your taxes on your company as exempt and deductible so you can get money back for anything you buy for your company and shelter.

6. Get A Business License

Although it may not sound like it, a homeless shelter is still considered a business. One of the biggest factors to legally run a sound shelter is having a proper business license. Check on your government’s web page on how and where you can get one. Usually, it only costs a small fee to apply.

7. Find A Fiscal Sponsor To Spot The Startup Costs

Money is never fun to talk about, but unfortunately, it is absolutely necessary for starting your homeless shelter. Applying for a fiscal sponsorship can help to raise some of the high startup costs for your shelter before you receive your tax-exempt status. You may also consider applying for a loan or a grant.

8. Ask Your Local Community For Sponsorship

It’s always best to reach out to your own local community for sponsorship besides getting a fiscal sponsor. Although you may have already reached your start-up costs, contacting churches and other nonprofits can help get your company’s name around and stir up talk in your own community. This will especially help down the line where you may need a group of volunteers or employees to help manage your shelter.

9. Combine A Team Of Volunteers or Hire Employees

You can’t do this all on your own. A team of volunteers or employees can help manage your business and provide a chance for your nonprofit to grow. Besides your volunteers to help manage the cause, remember that you also need a board of directors as well as other professional services such as a lawyer or accountants to help run successfully.

10. Apply For Insurance

To avoid being sued for work related issues, it’s important for your nonprofit and shelter to be protected by insurance. As well as having employees and volunteers, you need to make sure you have proper unemployment insurance to help protect your workers.

11. Spread The Word

An unsuccessful nonprofit is one that doesn’t have roots. Without community support, your shelter may fail and you may lose tons of sponsorship and money. It’s important to get your community talking about your nonprofit, you can even set aside a small marketing team to help boost your social media impact on your town.

man in a homeless shelter


With the rising population of homeless people, people like you, who want to make a difference in the world by creating help rather than desertion is not only a bold movement but needed in this day of age. With the rise of homeless shelters, hopefully we can finally turn people’s lives around and create better versions of themselves with counseling, closure, and hope. Comment below if you have any additional information on how to start a homeless shelter or any further questions on starting one.

Images from depositphotos.com.