Homeless shelters are usually operated by a non-profit agency or a municipal agency, or are associated with a church. Many get at least part of their funding from local government entities. Shelters can sometimes be referred to as "human warehouses". Other shelters however, base their practice on empowerment models, where instead of "warehousing clients", they empower "participants" to become agents in their own futures and destinies.
Such models tend to focus on assisting participants to access their rights whilst fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens. Sometimes this includes contributing financially towards the provision of the shelters they are residing in. In Australia, legislation requires those residing in Government funded shelters to contribute a figure similar to 25% of their own income, in return for support and accommodation. Consequently, many shelters in Australia rely on participant contributions for as much as 20% of their budgets.
Homeless shelters sometimes also provide other services, such as a soup kitchen, job seeking skills training, job training, job placement, support groups, and/or substance (i.e., drugs and/or alcohol) abuse treatment. If they do not offer any of these services, they can usually refer their clients to agencies that do.
There has been concern about the transmission of diseases in the homeless population housed in shelters, especially with some air and blood borne viruses. A question has been raised as to just how much money donated to the charities that run the shelters actually gets to the homeless person and the needed services. In many cases, there is a large overhead in administrative costs, which compromise the money for their homeless clients.