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If this is a Christian ministry you are starting, you must KNOW God has called you to do this. If you're not sure, continue to earnestly seek Him and do not begin anything until you are sure. You will know.
When you know you are called to start a shelter, you will probably already know the kind of shelter it will be, i.e., homeless women with children, men or families, drug rehab, crisis pregnancy, runaways, etc. Don't start until you know.
Whatever your first calling and vision is, WRITE IT DOWN and stick with it. As time goes by do not change who you were called to shelter, or include others just because their need is great. In other words don't include homeless single women in your shelter if God has called you to shelter homeless women and children. It won't work and you will have problems. It has been my experience that the vision may expand and take on new dimensions, but the basic calling remains the same.
Once the calling and vision have been determined, it is necessary to form an organizational group of three or four dedicated people to work with you. These people will need to catch your vision, and have the zeal, the time and the ability to contact various organizations, churches and individuals in the community.
They need to be free to do the footwork, the phone work and the letter writing. It is advisable to have people who have a good working knowledge of their community in this group. A monthly meeting is a necessity, with other meetings as needed.
You will need to obtain tax exempt status to receive any donations. This requires setting up a non‑profit corporation. Using an attorney is recommended. To start a non-profit corporation, there must be three people willing to serve as President, Secretary and Treasurer. The attorney will take you through the steps of organization and selecting a name. There will be a charge. There is a great range of fees that attorneys charge, so shop around a little bit.
Rent a P.O. Box. Do not deposit any money in organization's name until corporation and tax‑exempt status are established.
Set up a bookkeeping system and keep careful accounting records after tax exempt status is received.
Compose and mail introductory letter to as many names as possible. Make file of names. This is the beginning of your mailing list. Make a file of each name you send the letter to. A 3x5 card, last name first, with address, phone number, if possible, and source of name is the easiest way to keep these files if a computer is not available.
These names will be the beginning of your mailing list. Be sensitive to everyone who expresses an interest in what you are doing and ask them if they would like to receive your newsletter. Carefully keep their name and address until you have time to put it in your file. This mailing list will become your primary source of income and volunteers.
Lease, rent or buy a property. Research city codes regarding license and zoning. Parking, occupancy restrictions, building permits and Planning Department requirements are all very necessary components for a successful shelter operation. Work closely with City Planning/Building Departments. Gain city support whenever possible. Your local Association of Realtors may be helpful in identifying possible properties/sites for your shelter. Establish communication lines with your city planning staff and public officials. Inform them of your goals and objectives by written proposal. Meet with them when possible. Include neighbor's concerns and how you will protect them.
Find staff to operate shelter. The house managers (mothers) need to a have a passion for the widow and fatherless and a servant's heart. It must be a ministry not just a job for them.
Train a house manager. The Sheepfold has a complete House Manager's Training Manual on the internet at www.thesheepfold.org/shelter-manual.php.
Contact neighbors and win them to your cause by explaining your program and how their privacy will be protected. This is included in the Manager's manual.
Send out a monthly newsletter and enclose a return envelope. This may prove to be your greatest source of income.
Be strong and of good courage. Fear not, for the Lord is on your side. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.