Blog Home   >   Homeless shelter risk assessment

Homeless shelter risk assessment

A homeless shelter’s primary function is to keep its guests safe. Providing shelter is the first step, but guests must also feel safe from sexual abuse, falls, violence and diseases while staying in your facility. Church Mutual has created an assessment homeless shelters can use to reduce their risk exposure. Here are a few important tips:

Sexual abuse

  • Make sure you have a written sexual abuse prevention policy. Should the unthinkable happen, a written policy will help you determine next steps.
  • Provide separate sleeping areas for men and women. The only exception to this rule is for family units, who may sleep in the same room together.
  • Require criminal background checks for all volunteers and staff. This is standard protocol for any nonprofit, but it is especially important for homeless shelters.
  • Never leave children alone with adults who are not their guardians.

Slips, trips and falls

  • Make sure guests can easily find restrooms at night. Do not keep your facility so dark that guests may trip over furniture or other items on their way to the restroom. A homeless shelter is an unfamiliar environment for them, and they may become confused.
  • Establish a written procedure for cleaning up spills that includes cordoning off the area.
  • Keep your walkways free of clutter. Do not store items in your hallways.


  • Establish a written policy that prohibits the use of firearms in your facility. There should be zero tolerance for any staff member, volunteer or guest who brings a gun to your homeless shelter — with the exception of trained security personnel.
  • Train your staff members how to de-escalate conflicts between guests. Violent acts usually start with a less-violent conflict. If you and your staff members can manage confrontations between guests before they become violent, you are not only keeping your facility safe, but you are also helping your guests move forward in a constructive way.

Disease prevention

  • Use barriers between servers and guests when serving food. All servers should thoroughly wash their hands before touching any food.
  • Establish a screening policy for new guests. Provide separate areas for guests who are showing signs of COVID-19, the flu or other diseases.
  • Clean the facility every day. Many people come and go from your facility every day. If one of them becomes sick, you want to make sure the illness is not passed from one guest to another.

Keep Church Mutual’s assessment close at hand to make sure you are keeping all your guests, volunteers and staff safe.