What Do You Think About This?


Well-Known Member
A few months ago, my fourteen year old son, who had volunteered at the homeless shelter for years, was told by the staff not to return until he is eighteen. I thought it was just because of a new policy.

Yesterday my son was really down in the dumps about it. He said he doesn't think it was because of his age. He suspects it was because of a question he asked the staff. I never knew about this until yesterday. A few months ago, right before the staff told him he had to be eighteen to volunteer, he asked one of the staff why the homeless aren't allowed to sleep at the shelter during the day if they work graveyard shift. He was told they can only go in during the day for meals and chapel, but not to sleep. My son explained that not everybody has a day job. The staff member told him that is just the shelter's policy. He politely explained why he didn't think it was right. The woman walked off while he was talking.

His question makes sense. He said he was very nice when he tried to explain how this policy isn't fair. The next Saturday he was told not to return until age 18.

I told my son that may not be the reason. Maybe it was, but I don't want him growing up thinking everybody is out to get him. Instead, I just told him that maybe the shelter is concerned about safety, lawsuits, etc. What does everyone think?


Well-Known Member
I think he asked a question that was perfectly logical that made some people uncomfortable. He questions things and that can be threatening to people who have no real power. Good for him.


Well-Known Member
I dont think it was the question. I really dont. Maybe they feel he needs to mature a bit. What did he do for the shelter? What were his duties?

I volunteered at a busy homeless shelter.

Our homeless shelter was in a church too and the clients had to empty at 6am. It was not their home....the church was generous enough to give them a place to sleep when the church personnel were not there. We stayed with tjem all night and packed tjem a lunch. Different churches took turns and rhe people were given free tickets for the train each day so that at night they could ride to the next church.

If you are really upset about it, maybe you can call the person in charge. At our shelter you had to be 18 to volunteer there so maybe they DID change the rule. It could be rough at our shelter with foul language and people crying their hearts out. Most clients unemployed drug addicts....I could go on and on about why young kids could not volunteer. I cant imagine anyone under 18 being okay emotionally in the environment. Maybe thats it. Or maybe it is something about your son,nothing bad, that makes them think he should wait.

You wont know if you dont ask.
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Well-Known Member
I think you have to be 18 to volunteer here, so maybe I was a policy change that has nothing to do with his question. Maybe an incident happened that made them realize the liability they were taking with minors there. Your son brought up a great point. There may be reasons that they aren’t able to provide daytime shelter, but it was a well intentioned and logical idea, and should have been treated as such. I hope the experience hasn’t soured him on volunteering there or a similar place once he is 18.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
I agree that was an innocent question and I also doubt that was why he cannot be there.


Well-Known Member
As a lawyer, I'm kind of shocked they ever allowed a child (anyone under 18) to volunteer unless they had a parent with them at all times. After all, the homeless population is not generally made up of the most stable, healthy individuals. The liability implications are staggering.

As for his question, it's one I faced myself here. When we put our son out he ended up at the Salvation Army shelter. They will give you a bed for 3 months, to get on your feet and then they also have crash space for inclement weather for additional people. However, my son got a night job and we ended up renting him an apartment - which was a disaster, but that's not the point - because the shelter would not allow him to sleep days. It seemed terribly unfair to me, that their purpose was to help people get on their feet, but if they got night jobs, they basically weren't allowed to be there anymore. You COULD be in the building, just not sleeping!

Possibly, his asking the question caused the person he talked to, to ask someone higher up...which brought your son and his age to their attention?

Your son sounds like a great kid. I'm sure he'll be able to find another place worthy of his work and charity.


Well-Known Member
Would he like the Humane Society? Cray, they always need volunteers and teens are welcome, at least here.
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Well-Known Member
I think the staffer that talked to your son was just tired of the subject. I would imagine this comes up all the time, and there is nothing the staff can do about it. I don’t think it had anything to do with why your son can’t work there.

I have found that having them leave during the day is pretty much the norm for shelters, not the exception.

When we were looking for a group home-type situation for a mentally ill relative, I was surprised to find that the same thing happens in some of those homes. Doesn’t seem right in that situation, but it’s better than nothing.


Well-Known Member
I found myself conflicted on this one. Generally, I think it’s something like a policy change re age. But I can see were it might cause you to ponder the situation.


Well-Known Member
This is what I think:

I think that it was a brilliant and ethical comment/question. I think he may have upset the apple cart, because, it demonstrated your son thinks for himself, has the confidence to assert his views, and stands up for what is right. I think this can scare people. So. It does not surprise me that they decided to enforce the rule, just exactly when he demonstrated he has a brain, a big heart, an independent voice, an ethical conscious and personal strength. Because somebody like this cannot be controlled. If he saw abuse. If he saw illegal behaviors. Somebody like this would speak up.

(He may learn to not be so up front, or maybe he will keep going in this direction. Life has a way of teaching us things we do not want to know, and then we need to make a choice about whether or not we continue.)

I was like your son, but I learned to temper it some, because I saw the consequences. To me. And I saw that speaking up in a situation where there can be retaliation is self-sacrificial and often ineffective. So what I learned to do is document everything...sending letters....narratives....in ways that I was protected. But I learned that workplaces do not want ethical people to learn their secrets. Or to be around where they can see potential liability.

I think your son is better off away from this place. If it were me I would not want him there.

But he did the right thing.
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