If you are planning to work in a homeless shelter as a first-timer, you must make sure you are well-prepared for the role you are recruited for. Trust me, working in a homeless shelter can be emotionally and physically draining.
Despite the fact that working at a homeless shelter can be challenging, it is also an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Approach the experience with compassion, an open mind, and a commitment to learning and growing in your role.
There are several tips you can adopt if you want to enjoy your work with a homeless shelter, and that is what we will discuss in this article.
Tips for Working at a Homeless Shelter as a First-Timer
You should learn about the causes of homelessness, available resources, and common challenges faced by the homeless population.
If you are well-informed in this regard, it will be easier for you to get absorbed in the work, and you will not be carried away by some of the challenges you will face in your line of duty.
Understand the Shelter’s Mission
In line with educating yourself about what a homeless shelter is all about, you should also make sure you familiarize yourself with the shelter’s mission and values. With that, it will be easier for you to align your efforts with the homeless shelter’s goals.
You must be ready to approach everyone in the homeless shelter with empathy and an open mind. This is necessary because people experiencing homelessness come from diverse backgrounds and have unique stories.
Your ability to connect with them on the ground of empathy will go a long way to help them settle fast in the homeless shelter.
Respect and Dignity
You must make sure you treat individuals with respect and dignity no matter the rung of the ladder they are at the time you meet them. You should avoid making assumptions or judgments about their situations.
You must practice active listening until you have perfected the skill. Trust me, many homeless individuals appreciate someone who is willing to hear their stories without judgment.
Of course, you will come across several homeless individuals who will always want to share their stories and challenges with you. With active listening skills, you will be able to serve them better.
Learn the Basics of Homelessness
There are loads of reasons why people become homeless, and as an employee who is recruited to work in a homeless shelter, one of the things you can do to put yourself in the position of lending helping hands is to learn the basics of homelessness.
You should first try and understand the basic terminology and issues related to homelessness, such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, and mental health challenges.
Prior to working as a first-timer in a homeless shelter, you should first attend volunteer training, and perhaps work as a volunteer in a homeless shelter.
With the experience you gathered as a volunteer, you will be able to decide whether you can cope with working in a homeless shelter on a full-time basis.
Please note that even though you are expected to give your best when working in a homeless shelter, it is important to note that if you are not approaching your work with wisdom, you can get drained.
What we are saying in essence is that while it is important to be compassionate as a worker in a homeless shelter, you must not fail to also establish healthy boundaries to ensure your own well-being.
Remember, your well-being is key to continuous service delivery in the homeless shelter hence you must not sacrifice it for anything.
In other to be effective as a worker in a homeless shelter, you must be willing to work collaboratively with other staff and volunteers.
Remember, teamwork makes things work effortlessly hence you must develop a good team player spirit prior to resuming as a worker in a homeless shelter.
Your ability to be flexible is essential for working in a homeless shelter. In homeless shelters, you must be prepared for unexpected situations. Trust me flexibility is key when working in a dynamic and often unpredictable environment like a homeless shelter.
Crisis De-escalation Training
In case you have not attended any crisis de-escalation training, you must make sure you attend one prior to resuming work in a homeless shelter. You must make sure you familiarize yourself with crisis de-escalation techniques.
This is so because some individuals who come to homeless shelters may be facing mental health challenges, so knowing how to handle crises calmly is important.
Learn Local Resources
You are expected to know about local resources, such as food banks, healthcare services, and employment assistance. With that, it will be easier for you to provide valuable information to shelter guests.
If you are planning to start work as first timer in a homeless shelter, then you must be culturally sensitive. This is so because the homeless populations can be diverse, and understanding cultural nuances is important for effective communication.
Part of what will help you stay longer in a homeless shelter as a worker, and also help you gain the trust of both the management and residents of the homeless shelter is your ability to maintain confidentiality.
You must learn to respect the privacy and confidentiality of shelter guests. In essence, you must make sure you avoid discussing personal information with others in and around the homeless shelter facility.
Self-care is yet another tip you must not forget if you are planning to start working in a homeless shelter. In simple terms, you must make sure you take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
This is so because working in a homeless shelter can be emotionally demanding, hence you must not fail to prioritize self-care.
Know Emergency Procedures
The fact that there may be emergencies in a facility like a homeless shelter means that if you are planning to work in a homeless shelter, you need to know emergency procedures.
You must endeavor to familiarize yourself with emergency procedures, including evacuation plans and first aid protocols.
Of course, these are likely part of the training you will get when you start working in a homeless shelter, but it won’t be a bad idea to familiarize yourself with them.
Learn about Trauma-Informed Care
You must make sure you understand the principles of trauma-informed care because you will need it. As a matter of fact, many individuals in shelters have experienced trauma, and a sensitive approach to handling them is essential.
Advocate for Systemic Change
Your intention of wanting to work in a homeless shelter should not be restricted to just the money you will get, but also the impact you are willing to bring to the table.
This is why you must make sure you use your experience to advocate for systemic change in addressing homelessness. You must make sure you understand the root causes and work towards long-term solutions.
If you plan to work in a homeless shelter for the long haul, then you must be ready to maintain a positive attitude at all times.
Trust me, working in a homeless shelter can be discouraging hence you must do all you can to stay positive. Remember, positivity can be contagious and contribute to a more supportive atmosphere in the homeless shelter.
Reflect and Learn
You must endeavor to regularly reflect on your experiences, learn from them, and continuously seek ways to improve your contributions to the shelter community. With that, you will always go home fulfilled after every day’s job.