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Advantages of Overnight Shelters

Does overnight shelter promote or inhibit long-term homelessness?

While there is a general movement away from overnight shelters toward the “housing first” model in which homeless persons are immediately placed into permanent housing, at this time there are several advantages to maintaining our current level of overnight shelter care.

First, there are not enough “housing first” apartments in Miami-Dade County to accommodate persons who are homeless. Without overnight shelter beds, more homeless persons will be sleeping on the streets of Miami, in automobiles and abandoned automobiles with no remedy because of the provisions of the Pottinger Agreement.

Signed in 1997, the Pottinger Agreement allows homeless persons in Miami to live on the sidewalks and in parks, except when a bed is available for that person in a homeless shelter and the person refuses to accept the available bed. See Attachment A for more information on the Pottinger Agreement.

Second, many persons who meet the criteria of chronic homelessness, especially those historically served by Camillus House, are not ready to benefit from immediate placement in a temporary or permanent housing assignment. Many of these persons are socially isolated, suspicious of others and cognitively disoriented.

Experience in our newly established “Pavilion Program,” that permits persons to spend the night and day in our covered Atrium and Pavilion demonstrates that short stays in the Camillus House overnight shelter or courtyard allow our “guests” to become familiar and comfortable enough with our staff to become open to accepting participation in the many additional programs in our comprehensive program to break the cycle of homelessness. These services include housing, medical, mental illness and substance abuse treatment, GED classes, job training, and job and housing placement.


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