What is an Emergency Shelter?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2019
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The term "emergency shelter" can refer to two completely different types of building setups. Most people associate an emergency shelter with something set up by the Red Cross in the case of a natural disaster or other area crisis. In such a situation, people may be either encouraged or ordered to leave their homes behind for a short period of time. An emergency shelter of this type can be set up inside a school's gym or similar large buildings, or it can be organized by putting up large, open tents in parking lots or parks. The style of the emergency shelter depends on the area weather, the type of emergency, and the facilities required to hold and treat people.

The other use for the term "emergency shelter" does not refer to a temporary setup. In this case, an emergency shelter is a permanent building set up in which battered women or victims of other violent crimes can seek refuge. An emergency shelter serving victims of violence usually offers total anonymity. Many do not require ID, so that people can check in in anonymously, while others verify personal information but do not share it with anybody. An emergency shelter of this type often offers free services such as job assistance, career counseling, and GED-exam preparation help, in an effort to help the people staying there to "get back on their feet."


An emergency shelter can also be set up to provide assistance to drug addicts, runaway teens, and displaced people who have lost their home due to an emergency evacuation. Homelessness is not considered an emergency situation, and people who live on the streets permanently can look for assistance in specialized shelters.

Both types of emergency shelter share some common characteristics. Food and basic accommodations are provided in both, and counselors are often in the premises to help people deal with their present situation. If children are involved, there is often a teacher or another kind of professional focused on the child. Child care and basic health services are also common, either with the help of volunteers or through assigned professionals.


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Post 2

I seem to be constantly amazed at the kindness provided by strangers when someone has to rely on emergency housing. You realize that many times there is no other place to go, and having a place to sleep, shower and food to eat can make a huge difference.

I have seen family emergency shelters that were used for several weeks for families that had to leave their homes because of flooding. It is nice for the whole family to be able to stay together and not be separated. Those hard times are never easy, but as long as you have a place to stay while you get things sorted out, you realize you can make it.

Post 1

I live in an area of the country that is known for frequent tornadoes. The last few years we have also had devastating floods. Many emergency shelter services were provided that were a life saver for many families.

When you are forced to leave your home because of a natural disaster and you do not have family close by to stay with, you often have to rely on these type of shelters. When faced with that type of situation, you are very grateful for a warm or cool, dry place to stay and food.

You are also in a situation with other people who are in the same boat as you, and you realize that you are not alone. I am very thankful for the people who volunteer their time and effort to help out with these emergency shelters.

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