Homeless shelters are public or private non-profit facilities that provide temporary or transitional housing and services for people who currently lack a place to stay.

These services are usually offered for free or at a reduced rate to those who cannot afford to pay for a place at full price. So, how do homeless shelters make money?

People often wonder how homeless shelters can make any money when their occupants rarely pay anything to use the shelter’s services.

In this article, we will discuss the different ways homeless shelters can make money, so they are able to stay open and continue to offer their services to those in need.

How Do Homeless Shelters Make Money?

Homeless shelters provide a necessary service to a vulnerable population.

While the people using the shelter may not have the means to pay for their stay, there are several ways that the shelter can generate income. So how do homeless shelters make money?

Here are 5 ways:

  1. Government Funding
  2. Private Donations
  3. Renting Space
  4. Fundraising
  5. Utilizing volunteers (ie cutting operating costs)

#1. Government funding

Many homeless shelters rely on a variety of government funding. A mix of local, state, and federal funds help pay for the expenses of keeping home shelters open to those who need them.

These government funds come in the form of grants, they are not always equally distributed, and there is no guarantee they will be the same amount each year. Additionally, certain funds for homeless shelters are dependent on the type of services the shelters provide their users, such as permanent supportive housing, emergency shelter, or rapid re-housing.

#2. Private donations

In addition to government funding, another major way homeless shelters make the money they need to keep their doors and services open is through private donations.

Private donations can come in the form of checks as well as items. They can be given by anyone from big businesses to a local good neighbor. Sometimes businesses come together to collectively donate large amounts of money to help support their city’s homeless shelters.

On a smaller, but just as important scale, are the donations from city residents in the form of money, clothing, or food.

#3. Renting space

Not every homeless shelter can utilize this stream of income, but the ones that do have the dedicated space or the capacity to rent out some of their beds at a low cost.

Homeless shelters in this category not only make money but also help preserve avenues for affordable housing. Moreover, these renting options can differ from each shelter. Some may offer a capped amount of nights per occupant while others may offer permanent long-term options.

#4. Fundraising

Fundraising is another crucial way homeless shelters make money to curb their upkeeping expenses. No matter the size of a homeless shelter, it is possible to reach fundraising heights through effective message articulation, tailoring asking amounts per donor, putting together new annual events, and forming strategic partnerships.

As with all fundraising, it is important to maintain good working relationships with current donors to help ensure continued assistance. Acquiring new donors can sometimes prove to be resource-consuming but well worth it in the long run to secure consistent income flow.

#5. Utilizing volunteers

While this may not fall under a traditional way to make money, homeless shelters are able to save money by utilizing the services of volunteers. Volunteers allow these shelters to save money and reallocate those funds to other areas of need in the shelter.

Volunteers are invaluable to non-profits, especially homeless shelters. With somewhat limited ways to generate income, these shelters depend highly on the time and efforts donated by volunteers to help keep everything running smoothly.


Homeless shelters provide an invaluable service to those in need and are an essential part of any society. The people running these shelters have the difficult task of ensuring they have the money necessary to keep their doors open and their services running. So how do homeless shelters make money?

In this article, we reviewed several ways in which they are able to generate the income needed to keep their doors open.

The most common ways homeless shelters make money are through government funding, private donations, renting space, fundraising, and utilizing volunteers. Each of these ways plays an important role in the overall financial stability of a homeless shelter.

Without a doubt, running a homeless shelter is not an easy task. But with the right amount of financial support, these shelters are able to provide a safe and warm place for those in need.