Apr 18, 2023

Insurance for Homeless and Domestic Abuse Shelters

Category: Social Services

When people are experiencing homelessness or domestic abuse, shelters provide a safe haven. Shelters can help people avoid dangerous situations and give people space to figure out their next move. Shelter operators work hard to keep the people they serve safe. However, they must also protect the health and safety of their workers. A comprehensive workers’ compensation program is a critical part of risk management and insurance for homeless and domestic abuse shelters.

Homelessness in the U.S.

On a single night in January 2022, 582,462 people in the U.S. were experiencing homelessness, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Approximately 60% of these individuals were in shelters, safe havens, or transitional housing programs, but the other 40% were on the streets or in abandoned buildings and other locations unsuitable for habitation.

Although homelessness is a problem throughout the U.S., numbers vary significantly by region. According to HUD, 171,521 people in California are homeless, accounting for 30% of the country’s homeless population. New York has 74,178 homeless people, Florida has 25,959, and Washington has 25,211.

Since population per state varies, looking at homelessness rates can provide a more meaningful picture of the situation. Although 18 per 10,000 people are homeless on the national level, some regions have significantly higher rates of homelessness:

  • In the District of Columbia, the homeless rate is 8 per 10,000 people.
  • In California, the homeless rate is 44 per 10,000 people.
  • In Vermont, the homeless rate is 43 per 10,000 people.
  • In Oregon, the homeless rate is 42 per 10,000 people.
  • In Hawaii, the homeless rate is 41 per 10,000 people.

Homelessness is a common problem, but many caring organizations are working hard to improve the situation. HUD says the number of beds for people currently or previously experiencing homelessness increased by 11% between 2020 and 2022. Emergency shelters provide around one-third of the beds available to the homeless, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Domestic Violence in the U.S.

The CDC says approximately one in three women and one in four men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner.

Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t always easy – people often need support. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, abusive partners may retaliate when their partner tries to leave, which often makes leaving the most dangerous period of time for victims of abuse.

People may also stay because they lack resources and depend on their abusive partner for money and a place to stay. Alternatively, they may be socially and culturally isolated and have no one to turn to. In many cases, abuse victims may have to choose between homelessness or abuse. The National Network to End Domestic Violence says 63% of homeless women have been victims of domestic or sexual violence. Shelters provide a critical alternative to people trying to escape abuse.

Shelter Workers Can Be Put in Harm’s Way

People who work at homeless and domestic violence shelters are generally driven by a passion to help others. However, the work isn’t always easy – sometimes, it can be downright dangerous. The individuals who rely on the services of homeless shelters may be unstable due to mental health and substance abuse issues. Shelters may also attract violent individuals, including people who are trying to retaliate against former victims. Some just want to want to prey on vulnerable populations.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Two men in a homeless shelter are arguing. A worker intervenes to calm them down, but the fight escalates to violence, leading the worker to be punched and knocked out.
  • A woman is staying in a shelter to get away from her abusive husband. Her husband learns of her location and arrives with a gun. He shoots his wife as well as several workers.
  • Although the homeless shelter has a strict rule against drugs, someone sneaks in drugs and a syringe. A worker is stuck by the needle while cleaning and needs to undergo medical testing.

Unfortunately, scenarios like these do occur, sometimes with devastating consequences. According to The Times Union, a homeless center worker in Albany, New York, was in critical condition after a man attacked him with a sword-like weapon. In another tragic incident, Newsweek says a homeless man fatally stabbed an employee at a homeless shelter in Denver after he was told to leave because he had been fighting with another individual.

Securing Insurance for Homeless and Domestic Abuse Shelters

Even though shelter operators take steps to foster a safe environment, the nature of these facilities means risks may remain. It’s therefore critical to have a robust workers’ compensation program. Tangram offers a workers’ compensation program designed specifically for the needs of the social services sector, including shelters. Participants receive access to nurse triage services, a broad medical provider network, and employee training and risk management resources. Learn more.