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Do You Need a License to Run a Homeless Shelter?

Yes. In the United States, homeless shelters are required to obtain certain licenses, particularly a business license. As such, if you are looking to start and operate a homeless shelter, it is recommended you reach out to your local courthouse to find out all the licenses and authorizations you are expected to obtain.

Also remember you will be expected to apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS, too. In addition, you will be expected to only use a facility that is in the appropriate zone in your city, fill out the requisite forms and applications, obtain the necessary permits and authorizations, hire capable hands, and undergo frequent inspections.

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While these will most definitely vary depending on your location in the United States, it is necessary you pay attention to them and adhere to all steps.

Basic Licenses Needed to Run a Homeless Shelter

  1. Business License

It is a legal document provided by a federal, state, or local government agency that proves or indicates that you have the right or government permission to open and operate your homeless shelter within a particular jurisdiction.

Note that this license remains a must for homeless shelters within the United States and you would want to invest in obtaining it prior to accepting residents into your shelter.

  1. Zoning Permit

Note that in the United States, your homeless shelter will need to be within the right part of the city before it can be permitted to open or accept residents.

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Note that the primary essence of this regulation is to make sure that a municipality is segregated into separate districts, or zones, upon which varying regulations, particularly when it has to do with land use, are applied.

Owing to that, when seeking the right facility to open a homeless shelter, it is very necessary you take your time to understand the zoning of your city and ensure that the facility you choose conforms with the local zoning regulations.

  1. Nonprofit Incorporation

If the shelter will be a nonprofit organization, then it is also important you secure tax-exempt status under section 501© (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Truth be told, a good number of homeless shelters in the United States are run this way.

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However, to obtain this tax-exempt status, you will first need to choose an appropriate name for your homeless shelter, draft a purpose statement and bylaws, put together a board of directors, file your articles of incorporation, apply for federal tax-exempt status as a 501© (3) and conduct other state-specific regulations.

  1. Staffing and Certification Requirements

Even though this is not considered a license, note that hiring staff to help with running your homeless shelter might very well give rise to many other vital licenses and permits.

In the United States, note that this will more or less depend on the services and amenities you intend to offer your residents as well as the programs you put in place.

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Coupled with the quite popular EIN, employing certain staff such as mental health experts or food specialists will warrant additional certifications or even licenses in their own field. As such, it is important you take great care to find out all you need prior to running your homeless shelter.

  1. Health and Safety Permits

Depending on your location as well as the amenities you offer to residents, you will be mandated to get food service permits or health permits.

Note that once the necessary permits and licenses have been obtained, you will also be expected to stay in line with the accompanying regulations and specific conditions of the permit or license. Don’t also forget that these permits might as well have expiration dates and you will be expected to renew them.

  1. Insurance

Note that homeless shelters tend to draw in violent individuals, including people who are looking to take revenge on former victims. You will also find that a good number of them are just looking to prey on vulnerable populations.

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As such, shelter operators are always advised to seek ways to foster a safe environment, and while the risk and danger will still persist, it is also necessary the shelter has the right insurance coverage.