Fear of Shelters: How Shelters Can Limit the Safety-Net of the Unhoused

Many individuals who experience homelessness look for ways to improve their conditions. Living in shelters is one of them. Although shelters are an option for many people experiencing homelessness, many choose not to live in them for several reasons.

Shelters have limitations on who they will accept. For example, a shelter that demands sobriety can be challenging for individuals who are struggling with addiction. Another example is when a shelter does not allow pets but an individual does not want to give up their dog. These rules and limitations are in place for a reason, but limit the options people have. 

Living in a shelter also means living among people you have never met, and most likely do not trust. People who live in shelters want to seek a safe shelter, and being surrounded by those they do not know can be anxiety-inducing. These are some of the issues people will go through when living in shelters if they are assigned one of the very limited beds available. 

There are many health concerns when living in shelters that people want to avoid. According to Kylyssa Shay from Soapboxie, a woman who has stayed at a shelter, stated that she was in fear of being raped or assaulted, contracting diseases and/or parasites, fear of contracting a disease, and rules that unfairly endangered disabled individuals.

When an individual is unsheltered, they are not subject to rules, curfews, and can make all of their decisions on their own. The shelter you are assigned to is also not your choice. A shelter is assigned to you when applying to an intake center. When you are unsheltered and living in the streets, you decide where and when to sleep and who to be around. According to Pallet, the people experiencing homelessness do not want to give up their safety net, saying, “[F]or the homeless without family or a traditional support network, their fellow friends on the street act as their “family,” and, in some cases, are the only safety net they have in times of trouble”. 

People experiencing homelessness want to improve their conditions and shelters should be an easy option. The issues that come with living in shelters can limit the options people have and need to be resolved. While more space is needed in these shelters, the limitations that the unhoused people face when entering a shelter need to be re-evaluated to ensure a safe space for all people. 


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