Individuals working at a shelter are often required to be many things – even if they don’t appear in a job description – including babysitter, nurse, counsellor, teacher, housekeeper, cook, administrative assistant, safety police and many more. Shelters have varying levels of staff depending upon the type of shelter, funding source(s) and kinds of services provided. At times staff might work alone or in a pair, while at others there might be several staff working at the same time.
Generally, shelter workers provide support to the residents of a shelter to help maintain order in the shelter and to help the residents achieve success in transitioning to housing. There is not just one solution to homelessness so shelter workers need to be able to create individualized plans for their clients.
Shelter workers need to be aware of all services available in the shelter and in the community that might assist an individual experiencing homelessness to transition into housing. Some shelters might have formal partnerships with other programs that come in to the shelter or provide off-site services; others will just require a referral.
Shelter workers need to remember that for the resident the shelter is their home, transitional or temporary as it may be. Providing rules and structures help to keep the shelter operations operating smoothly; consistent implementation of these protocols is even more important.
Shelter workers must be able to use effective conflict resolution skills to resolve issues between clients, between residents and staff or even between staff.
Some shelter workers may be involved in the design and delivery of program activities, in conducting research or evaluation of services, or creating/fostering relationships with community programs. Shelter staff will need to be aware of and comply with health and safety standards within the shelter. Additionally, shelter staff will be required to maintain confidentiality and report at both staff meetings and through collected data (including registration, daily updates, case management notes) on progress of individual clients or the shelter operations as a whole.