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Reducing Your Homeless Shelter Liability Insurance Risk

Homeless shelters service their local community by providing a safe place to stay for those who are homeless.  They also provide many additional services such as providing food, hygiene supplies, drug and alcohol recovery programs, spiritual guidance, showers, and many additional services. 

While providing shelter is what brings in homeless families, once they arrive homeless shelters act by providing the needed resources to help people get back on their feet.  It is critical for these individuals who are down on their luck, to feel safe from others who are also there. 

The fear of the unknown can make it difficult to seek out help which is why it is important for a homeless shelter to have an active ongoing plan to prevent sexual abuse, falls, violence, and diseases while staying in a facility.

Homeless Shelter liability insurance

Important Tips To Reduce Liability At A Homeless Shelter

How to reduce and/or eliminate sexual abuse

  • Have a written sexual abuse prevention program. – Written abuse policies and procedures, help provide the needed steps to take to prevent an abusive act from happening.  It also provides the clear steps to take if an abuse happens at a homeless shelter.
  • Separate sleeping areas for men, women, and families. – Separating people by their gender is an active protocol homeless shelters can implement to reduce or eliminate a possible abuse incident.  Homeless families are the exception to this rule; however, steps need to be in place to protect these families who are sharing the same. 
  • Require criminal background checks for all volunteers and employees. – This is standard expectation of any nonprofit organization. Insurance companies who specialize in nonprofit organizations, require background checks for nonprofits who work with kids and the elderly.  This is especially important for homeless shelters.
  • Never leave children alone with adults who are not their guardians. – All organizations who have children involved as part of their nonprofit, need to take an active role in protecting these kids. 

Helping to prevent Slips, trips and fall liability insurance claims

  • Have property lighting throughout your homeless shelter. – Many liability insurance claims happen due to the lack of proper lighting throughout the entire property.  As homeless shelters are lived in day and night, it is important to maintain adequate lighting throughout the inside and outside of your buildings.  Homeless shelters have new people coming in and out of your facilities, who are not familiar with your building. 
  • Establish a written procedure for cleaning up spills. – Accidents happen, no matter how hard we try to prevent them.  Ensure all staff have access to cleaning supplies, so they can easily and quickly clean up a mess.  It may be necessary to temporarily close off certain parts of your building, so ensure you have the needed resources to be able to clearly identify areas that are currently restricted or closed.
  • Keep your walkways free of clutter. Removing items that are trip hazards, helps reduce the possibility of someone falling.  Store designated items in the appropriate storage location and not in or near hallways, stairs, and electrical closets.


  • Establish written weapons safety policy. All weapons should be prohibited on all homeless shelter properties.  A zero-tolerance policy clearly posted outside and inside of all buildings applying to all staff member, volunteers, residents, and guest.   The only exception is licensed and trained security officers.
  • Train employees and volunteers how to de-escalate conflicts between guests. As with any violent act, de-escalation should be our top priority.  During tense moments it can be easy to escalate a situation if staff members are not frequently trained to de-escalate different situations.  This helps keep your staff and visitors to the homeless shelter safe and protected.

Disease prevention

  • Clean entire facility daily – Homeless shelters are considered a high-risk location for an outbreak of diseases that can occur.  As most homeless individuals are without health insurance, it is vital homeless shelters thoroughly clean daily.   Having several fulltime janitors to maintain the facility 24 hours a day will bean critical to maintaining a safe and healthily living environment. 
  • Use barriers between servers and guests when serving food – Having a clean kitchen and food prep area is important to the overall success of keeping people healthy.  Window barriers also help keep the food clean and staff and guest free from germs.  All guest and staff should clean their hands before entering the dining facility.  Providing hand sanitizer at all entrances, helps reduces the spread of germs.
  • Establish a screening policy for new and existing guests. All new guests should be checked for any known illness and diseases prior to gaining access to the entire facility.  This includes checking people for signs of a cold, flue, HIV, tuberculosis, COVID-19, and so on.  When possible, provide two separate entrances into the building.  One designated for the sick and one for people who believe they are healthy.  This will help contain the spread of viruses to your visitors and staff.
  • Have an onsite nurse’s station – Giving the homeless community a location to obtain basic medical services, such as band aids, Tylenol, ice packs, along with any other basic services can help reduce further injury or illness.  The nurse’s station should also manage all medications, taken by those homeless individuals staying at the homeless shelter. 
homeless shelter family

Liability Insurance For Homeless Shelters

It is important to have all the needed liability insurance in place for a homeless shelter.  We have identified several possible things that can be done to reduce your liability.  In reducing your liability exposures, you are also helping to keep people safe.  Keeping people safe and healthy, should be the primary goal of any nonprofit organization who works with people. 

When considering liability insurance, a homeless shelters insurance program should include the following coverages:

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Directors’ and officers’ insurance
  • Abuse and molestation insurance
  • Counselors’ liability insurance
  • Religious beliefs coverage
  • Medical malpractice insurance
  • First and third-party employment practice liability insurance
  • Crime policy
  • Cyber liability insurance
  • Employee benefits liability insurance
  • Non owned hired auto insurance
  • Umbrella liability insurance

Depending on the level of services being offered by your homeless shelter, the level of liability protection could differ from one organization to another.  Not having all the needed liability protection in place, could become a costly mistake.  It is important to discuss with your nonprofit insurance agent, what exposures are present at your facility.  This will help them make the needed recommendation, as they structure your homeless shelter insurance program.  

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Your employees and volunteer staff, also need protection from a job-related injury.  Volunteer staff would be anyone who regularly works for your homeless shelter without pay.  This would not include your occasional volunteers.  Workers’ compensation insurance is required by all states, however the coverage limits differ from state to state. 

Commercial Auto Insurance

Most homeless shelter also own vehicles.  They use these vehicles to go out into the community, to see how they can help their homeless community.  They also use their vehicles to pick up supplies, food, and to make deposits of donations at their local bank.  Any vehicle registered to a homeless shelter will need to be covered by a commercial auto insurance policy.  It is recommended to obtain the maximum limits available in your state. 

Group Health Insurance

Health insurance is vital to every individual and family.  Our employees deserve to have this needed health insurance coverage.  They are typically willing to accept the lower wages, so they can give back to those in need.  Quality health insurance is a great way to show your employees you care about them and their families. 

Filing a church insurance claim

Need Nonprofit Insurance

Integrity Now Insurance Brokers specializes in church insurance and nonprofit insurance.  They have helped many churches and nonprofit organization obtain the needed liability insurance coverages.

Homeless shelters are doing a difficult job, most people and organizations would never want to deal with on a full-time basis.

It is important to have all the needed insurance coverages in place, to protect your facilities and people who enter your buildings.

Reach out to one of our nonprofit insurance agents, and we will conduct a complete insurance review of all policies.  This will help ensure you are not without a critical insurance coverage.

We look forward to your phone call or seeing your request to quote.