Life in a homeless shelter does depend on what specific location a person lands in. With that noted, there are many common factors associated with living in a homeless shelter, common elements that frequently are found at these types of facilities.

Check-In Time at a Typical Homeless Shelter

Most homeless shelters maintain a specific check-in time for individuals to be able to spend the night at a particular location. Some shelters require daily check-ins, while others permit a person to stay at a facility for an agreed period of time without having to re-register every day. More often than not, registration to stay at a homeless shelter opens in the late afternoon or early evening.

Rise and Shine Time

Homeless shelters maintain rigid schedules about when guests must rise and start the day. Oftentimes, this is early in the morning, even as early as 5:00 a.m.

Breakfast and Then out the Door

Many shelters do provide a wholesome breakfast at wakeup. Some shelters also arm their guests with a sack lunch for later in the day. When the morning meal is finished, guests must vacate the shelter. The only real exception is if a guest is ill or doing work at the shelter itself.

Dorm Style Sleeping Arrangements

The typical homeless shelter features dorm style sleeping arrangements. The dorms can be large and hold dozens of people. If demand is particularly significant, some shelters will even squeeze guests in on the floor, to at least ensure that they have a roof over their heads.

Some homeless shelters welcome entire families. In such cases, many shelters devise different sleeping arrangements for family units. Families will not necessarily get their own rooms. Indeed, that would be unusual. Rather, there may be dividers demarcating specific sleep spaces for individual families.

Hygiene Supplies and Showers

One of the benefits of being able to access a homeless shelter is that guests have the opportunity to shower and undertake other hygienic practices. As a result, shelters usually provide guests with various hygiene supplies

Men, Women, and Families

Long gone are the days in which guests at the homeless shelter were only men. In this day and age, men, women, and entire families seek shelter of this nature. Indeed, the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown Los Angeles reports that a considerable percentage of the guests at the facility are families. These oftentimes are single-parent families, many times headed by a woman. In addition, single women are also regular guests of the center.

Medical Clinics

An increasing number of homeless shelters strive to provide a more comprehensive array of services. In this regard, many homeless shelters offer access to medical and dental clinics. A particular focus of these clinics is on children as well as adults afflicted with some sort of chronic illness.


Many homeless shelters offer their guests free clothing. One area in which clothing banks have been developing at the homeless shelter is in regard to guests looking for work. These shelters make an effort to obtain and then provide clothing suitable for a job search.

Job Search Resources

Speaking of job searches, homeless shelters nearly always strive to have at least some resources available to aid guests in looking for and finding work. This may include referrals to “workforce” or similar types of centers that specialize in assisting people to find a job and which provide a variety of services and resources to assist in this objective.

Faith-Based Missions

A good percentage of missions have a faith, religious, or spiritual component. This is the case with URM, which is one of the largest homeless shelters in the United States. Some homeless shelters make participating in religious activities optional, others do not. At some shelters, guests may be required to participate in things like evening prayers or church service on site on Sunday.

Timeframes for Staying in a Shelter

Homeless shelters can have different timeframes for which a person may stay. As mentioned earlier, some shelters require people to check-in each and every evening. On the other hand, many shelters make arrangements with individual guests that allow them to stay for an agreed or set period of time. Underpinning all of this is the idea that a homeless shelter is not and never can become a permanent residence for a person. A primary goal of a homeless shelter is to assist a person in finding real housing and get out of the cycle of being on the street.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.