Homeless people know how homeless people can be. They've seen the crazy, and probably felt a little of it themselves from time to time. They understand the desperation that blurs the line between right and wrong when survival is at stake.

Why Do Some Homeless People Prefer To Stay On The Streets Instead Of Going To A Charity-Shelter?

I came across this thread on Quora.com and found the answers to interesting. What do you think?


Dozens of reasons. In a variety of different orders of priorities.

You’re locked in. If someone tries to beat or stab or rape you, you have no way to escape from that threat, nowhere to run.

Homeless people know how homeless people can be. They’ve seen the crazy, and probably felt a little of it themselves from time to time. They understand the desperation that blurs the line between right and wrong when survival is at stake. They know how predatory a human being can become under the right set of circumstances. And you think it’s a good idea to go be locked up with up to 149 other homeless people, most or all of whom are strangers to you, and let your guard down enough to actually sleep, knowing full well that if you do so you will find when you awaken that your survival gear has been taken. Bedbugs and lice are also a certainty if you go to a homeless shelter. Some people don’t care, but it does matter a great deal to some people.

Then there’s the staff, who dehumanize you, treat you like children if they are kind, treat you like criminals and addicts if they are cruel, or simply try to ignore you as if you aren’t really there, don’t actually matter.

Because you’re locked in from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., you can’t take a cigarette break. You also can’t bring alcohol into the shelter. Or drugs. Those things also matter to some people but not to others.

Does that really sound preferable to the open sky, the freedom to come and go as one pleases, to avoid parasites and diseases, to be able to run if the need or even just the simple desire to run arises, to smell no stink but your own, to not have to lie there awake in the dark listening to the farts and snores and masturbatory activities of dozens of strangers, getting peed on when the guy in the bunk above you wets the bed? I mean, seriously, why on earth does anyone think that’s a good place to be or a good way to live?

Another factor is that homeless shelters do not accept pets, animal companions, or even service dogs. Many homeless people have animals. Many housed people don’t understand why. I’ve written of this extensively in other answers. But maybe it bears repeating here. This is an excerpt from another answer I wrote:

You discover that society judges your humanity based solely upon the amount of money you have, the stuff you possess, the resources available to you. At first, it is shocking to discover that no one looks at you, that their eyes slide by and they ignore you if you speak or smile like you’re not even there like you don’t even exist. You are SHUNNED, and within the first two weeks, the emotional and psychological impact of the shunning is devastating. It only grows more profound the longer it continues. Those who don’t shun are more inclined to abuse than to be kind.

The lack of human contact drives us crazy. Many will eventually rescue a stray cat or dog. Why, when we can barely feed ourselves and have no shelter, would we obligate ourselves to take on the responsibility of an animal companion? This is one aspect of homelessness that has always perplexed the housed. So let me tell you why. That animal looks at us and sees us. No one else does, aside from the other homeless outcasts, many of whom have become predatory over the years, or the hateful abusers who seek to do violence against us. Furthermore, that animal loves us! Even though we can provide no stable home, even though we may have to root through garbage cans to find something to feed our animals, they bond with us. They know that we will feed them even if doing so means that we ourselves must be hungrier longer. They cuddle up against us and share their body heat. And they want us to touch them. Reach out to shake someone’s hand and see them recoil from you. Reach out to pet a dog and see the touch not only welcomed but rejoiced in. Ecstatic pleasure just because you reached out and touched when the undeniable message you receive from everyone else is that you are lowly, lazy, unworthy, untouchable. You have no idea what that feels like.

That’s the end of the excerpt and hopefully makes it more understandable why homeless folks refuse to be separated from their animals. If the price of getting into a shelter is that you must intentionally make yourself completely alone and unloved before they will let you in the door, it’s too high a price to pay.



This is the hands-down, real reason…cleanliness. I know several homeless people who only go to shelters when it is extremely cold and when you go to almost any shelter for a duration of stay you will be required to have a tuberculosis test[1]. The main reason people opt-out is because of risks related to cleanliness.

People saying that the homeless individual ….

  1. Can’t because they have no ID.
  2. Have no credibility.
  3. Have things stolen so opt-out.
  4. Because they might experience religious persecution.
  5. Because they are trans or against LGBT
  6. ….other weird stuff

……philosophy and feelings aside, you can literally wipe out a mass of people if you are in a shelter with TB. You can freeze to death or lose toes in the cold, I don’t think those answers are from anyone who has actually ever been homeless.


  • I can give you 2 places in Denver where you can go get an ID with no money and from out-of-state right now.
  • The word credibility and homeless should never be used in the same sentence. When you struggle living on the streets you don’t run a background check on everyone who offers you donuts.
  • Almost always staff will keep things for you in a safe place. Most long-duration shelters have lockers, but you need to buy your own locks. Samaritan House (yep), Step 13 (yep), Bridehouse Ready to Work (yep), Denver TRT (yep), Bo Matthews (yep), Aurora Detox (yep), Denver Cares (yep) That’s %100 of the larger homeless shelters in and around Denver that offer secure storage of personal items.
  • Arguably, the mix of homeless on the streets is more of a melting pot than almost anywhere else. You will never find a %100 “we all practice the same religion” location in the United States. Even churches that assist the homeless do not care about your denomination. I can list every church in this region that caters to the homeless if you don’t believe me.
  • I have no idea how someone could take that answer seriously. You are in a life or death situation, your real concerns are not to get beat up and robbed at night, finding somewhere with food assistance, finding shelter, finding organizations to help you, trying to get in touch with your family….not asking people their sexual orientation so you can decide if you want to eat a bowl of soup at the same food shelter that you frequent.
  • ….there always will be.



Many homeless shelters are more dangerous than the streets.


The largest shelter in Chicago is Pacific Garden mission.

1000 people on average, a shelter here per night.

Men and women were being robbed or raped in the shelter and outside of it.

Many are released from prison to this shelter.

There is a parole office inside this shelter.

My wallet was stolen in this shelter.

I met a homeless woman by the Bean (Cloudgate sculpture) in downtown Chicago.

When I suggested she go to PGM, she began crying that she had been raped at PGM. She was freezing to death panhandling.

I sent her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and called CPD.

Many rapists were arrested at PGM after a large police investigation.

The second shelter called Cornerstone, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, run by Jesus People USA, had child predators and street gangs living there.

I was setting up to attend an automotive program at Truman College. An automatic weapons shooting happened involving drugs just next to the campus.

The shooters were gang members living in the Cornerstone shelter across the street from the Truman college campus.

I made 3 calls to the Chicago police.

The shooter was killed in the cornerstone shelter by CPD.

What is safer? A car, tent, an abandoned building or a shelter?

The shelter has multiple predators living there. Thieves, rapists, drug dealers, street gang members and child predators.

The shelter has bugs, will take your paycheck and kick you out in the middle of the night for minor rule infractions without returning your money.

Note: many homeless are the working poor. Shelters are a business and demand job holders surrender earnings, child support, social security, ssi / SSDI and food stamps / snap.

Common sense answer.

Safer and cheaper on the street.

One more thing. Some people at charity shelters have the wrong motives and beliefs as volunteers. They judge the homeless, without listening or truly seeking to understand. They stereotype and wrongly apply their own experiences with homeless people. Volunteers with ready access to food, shelter, transportation, money all too often assume their experiences apply to those with different circumstances.

An example. Socks. Asked an elderly lady for a pair of socks at a church shelter. Her response, I gave you a pair of socks last week.

Here is a clue, homeless people walk everywhere. Socks can wear out in a week.

Feet get grey and develop sores.

But I guess I’m not an old lady in control of handing out clean socks to those in need. She owns a car and a washing machine, I don’t.

Clueless well-meaning church people.



The best way to answer this question is to do the following:

Step 1: Imagine yourself becoming homeless right now. Everything you have, all of your financial resources and every human being you have ever considered friend or family are gone. You have nothing to use to pay for a night at a hotel and no one who is both willing and able to help you. What do you do?

Step 2: Start calling the local shelters and telling them you need a place to stay because you just became homeless. (Tell them you got thrown out or something if they ask – chances are good they won’t ask). Listen to what they tell you. It’s possible your answer will be provided right then and there.

Step 3: Visit the shelters. How safe do you feel? Could you sleep in this place? What kind of rules does the shelter have/enforce? What does the clientele look like? How clean is it? How old are the beds (read: chance of insect/parasite infestation)? Added per the edit below: Touring the facility is something potential volunteers (and donors) frequently do. The staff will be happy to tell you many wonderful things while you take a closer look.

Step 4: Read some biographies and/or ask the homeless people themselves.

For example: I just finished reading –My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden (Quotes: Michael Gaulden – Adora Myers) and was shocked to learn that the ‘best shelter in the city’ (he lives in California) requires all residents to participate in a program (this is common) AND hand over 80–90% of their total income. If you successfully complete the program, they give you your money back. If not, they keep your money at the end of your 3 month stay (many shelters have time limits). Personally, I would have turned around and walked away. I’ll sleep in my car before handing over my entire paycheck to a shelter on the ‘promise’ that they will give it back…IF they think I deserve it.

Every time I think I’ve heard it all…



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