Homeless Shelter Workers: Administration

Administrators of homeless shelters are a breed apart, and they’d like to keep it that way.  As much as possible they distance themselves from the actual work of the shelter, the face to face interactions with the homeless.  Instead, these people oversee the activities of the other shelter workers, and with the overwhelming task of keeping the shelter funded.  Funding requires them to constantly beg from every money source possible,  wealthy philanthropists, government officials, and the mostly fickle general public.  As a homeless person you will rarely see, let alone encounter a shelter administrator.  That is, unless the shelter is so small that the person doing the administration has to fill in other positions as well.  But, these days, there are very few small shelters.  The demand for shelters is just too great.

Administrators have enormous power and political pull, and they can make incredible things happen, for the right people, if they are moved enough to do so.  They are, of course, doing a job few others would even consider.  And, the pillars of the community are usually so greatful that someone other than themselves is having to deal with the homeless of their city, that they will do most anything to appease the shelter administrator.  Shelters have the effect of corralling the homeless and keeping them away from much of the city’s normal goings on.  I have heard about more than on occasion where some group of concerned citizens, usually property developers, tried to pressure a shelter into moving farther away from a downtown area, only to have the shelter administrator turn the tables by threatening the close down the shelter permanently.  That move usually ends all conversation.  The Nashville Rescue Mission can house up to 500 men, women, and children.  Just imagine 500 more homeless people living on the streets of Nashville with absolutely no where else to go.  I sure the downtown business owners just shudder at the thought of it.  And so, perhaps grudgingly, the powers that be acquiesce, and support the shelter, keeping it funded, perhaps not entirely, but enough to keep it from closing.

If as a homeless person, you have some special need that no one else in the chain of command at the shelter seems able to help you with, then you can try to appeal to one of administrators.   Still, getting an audience with a shelter administrator can often seem as difficult as getting to see the Pope.  And getting them to do someone on your behalf may be even more difficult.   But sometimes they do.  And results are often life changing.   I’ve seen where a shelter administrator arranged to have a homeless family moved into a house in a nice neighborhood, or gave someone a car.  Back in 1985, while still living at the Anchor Home of the Nashville Rescue Mission, I attended Belmont College.  Before the semester started, someone stole the three hundred dollars of grant money I had received to pay for books and school supplies.  In just a couple days time, an administrator arranged for a nearby church to replace that money, and I was able to get my books before classes started.

I would advise any homeless person to be careful about how they approach shelter administrators.  Don’t to anything to piss them off.  They also have the power to have you permanently banned from the shelter.  And they don’t hesitate to exercise that right, whenever they see fit.

But, shelter administrators are greatly concerned about their own reputations, and so they are going to be very careful about who and how they help.  If they get an inkling that you might waste the goodness they could bestow upon you, they will decline your request for assistance.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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