Chores At The Shelter

There are shelters that require chores be done, there are others that don’t.  The difference is usually with intent.  If it’s a straight up shelter, with no extracurricular  activities, then there are no chores.  They warehouse you for the night, and kick you out in the morning.  The other kind of shelter is the ‘program’ shelter, where they attempt to rehabilitate the homeless.  To the people running rehabilitation shelters, “chores” seem to be the cornerstone of their program.  Yes, some facilities offer both situations.  But, more and more shelters are turning into rehab shelters.  The public at large is no longer satisfied with just giving the homeless a roof and three sqares a day.  Now, expectations are higher.  People, rightfully so, want more for the homeless, ( and for themselves), they want an end to homelessness and are expecting shelters to work towards that end.

There is a bit of a conflict though, with faithbased shelters.   For the longest time it was believed that rehabilitation wasn’t very effective, and that only a religious conversion could truly remove someone from the cycle of homelessness.  So, faithbased shelters decided to not work on ending homelessness, but to attempt to convert the homeless to christianity.  These shelters have also used the conversion aspect as the focus of their fundraising. For these facilities to change gears and work solely on ending homelessness would affect their bottom line.  They also aren’t so keen on admitting they were wrong in their approach to homelessness.  In their eyes, to admit to being wrong about homelessness is to say their God is wrong.  For many shelter administration,  that’s just not possible.  Luckily, other institutions, with the support of the government, are moving ahead with better, and proven results.  Faithbased shelters are no longer the only game in town.
But I digress.
The shelter I’m staying at requires chores of the participants.   It really isn’t a rehab shelter in the strick sense of the word. But certain work about the place has to be done.   My chore this morning was to chean the shower facilities – 2 rooms on a trailer with 4 shower stalls in each room.   Sometimes the stalls can be a real mess, with feces and or drug needles being the worst of it.  This morning, it wasn’t so bad.  Still, all surfaces need to be cleaned, horizontal and vertical.  We have plenty of cleaning fluids and spray bottles and towels for wiping things down, but the facilitiy does not have a mop.  Why?  I don’t know.  But it sure needs it.  It would sure make cleaning all the hair out of the shower stalls easier.

About Kevin Barbieux

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


  1. Good question. Of course the maintenence of a shelter is necessary for the health and safety of the participants. Exactly how that is worked out within the respective shelters is up to them to decide.

    But there is a problem that often arises when a shelter makes use of “chores” for things other than the basic maintence of the facility. Among many shelter administrators there is this misguilded belief that the cause of homelessness is due to rebeliousness, or a lack of discipline, or perhaps a faulty work ethic. So they design their chore programs in such a way that exercises undue, or unnecessary control over the homeless in their shelters, and as a means of creating an authoritarian dynamic within the shelter so to keep the homeless “in their place.” All this garbage does nothing to actually rehabilitate homeless people.


  2. TLC

    How do you feel about chores? Do you think they're appropriate to make sure occupants have a clean place to rest?


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