What Kind of Insurance Coverage Should a Homeless Shelter Have?

Business property insurance protects property used for various shelter functions.
Business property insurance protects property used for various shelter functions. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Homeless shelters provide temporary housing and protection for vulnerable populations. Shelters provide a comfortable place to sleep, food, counseling and other services to homeless people and their families. There are several types of shelters, including disaster and emergency relief shelters, shelters for pregnant women and domestic violence shelters. The nature of services offered in shelters expose the organization and its staff to liability. Homeless agencies must purchase several types of insurance policies and coverages to protect the legal and financial interests of the shelter.

General Liability

Homeless shelters provide services for people of all ages and backgrounds. Although most agencies attempt to act in the best interest of the homeless population, occasionally mistakes happen. If the shelter's staff injures or harms a guest in any way, the shelter is responsible for paying the cost of bodily injury and medical expenses. Shelters purchase general liability insurance to pay these expenses as well as expenses related to legal defense and court costs if the shelter is sued.

Worker's Compensation

Homeless shelters have volunteer workers as well as regular staff members. Staff members include homeless program coordinators, social workers, counselors and case managers. Some employees work from locations away from the shelter, while many work on-site. The shelter must have worker's compensation insurance in case an employee suffers an injury on the job. Worker's compensation coverage pays for injuries and in some cases lost wages that stem from the injuries.

Commercial Property

Shelters have kitchen equipment, bedding, toiletry items, furnishings, office equipment and other materials. Homeless shelters should have coverage that protects this property. A commercial property insurance policy provides coverage for property such as the building's structure, contents within the building and any attached structures. Property insurance covers property lost by fire, theft, vandalism and weather-related incidents.


If a fire or automobile accident injures several shelter guests at once, injuries and expenses may exceed the limits of a typical insurance policy. Homeless shelters should have additional liability protection that extends beyond a general liability or automobile liability insurance policy. An umbrella policy pays once legal or medical expenses exceed the coverage in primary policies. Umbrella policies provide very high limits of protection. Policy limits range from $1 million to $10 million or more.

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