What Is Emergency Housing?

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Any number of reasons can leave an individual, or family, homeless in a matter of minutes. Natural disasters, fire, relief from domestic violence and economical failure are just a few of the reasons people find themselves in need of emergency shelter. The one thing all those reasons have in common is the people who need protection from the elements.

Size and Cost

There is no set size for a shelter. Shelters can house as few as one person to hundreds in large complexes. Most shelters are stationary. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has three sizes of mobile disaster housing. FEMA purchased and deployed over 120,000 travel trailers, 4,445 park style trailers, and 21,322 mobile homes for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Most are free if applicants meet the qualifications for entry. Some charge minimal rates, or a graded scale for occupants who work, and can afford some payment. In those cases fees are usually based on income. Personal emergency shelters can be erected in a pinch with just some materials gathered from home, an automobile, or even natural things like branches and leaves.

Types of Emergency Housing

There are emergency housing applications for almost every human disaster and ailment. Some of the types of organizations that offer housing are cold weather shelters, emergency weather shelters, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and substance abuse recovery shelters.


The qualifications for every program vary according to its own rules, but most require some proof of need. In the case of financial loss families must meet a level of income in relation to the poverty level. The Community Services Consortium of Oregon requires at least 150 percent of the poverty level. Depending on the type of housing available, some shelters demand that no reason for homelessness should be self-caused. Shelters that offer housing for substance abuse recovery do not usually have the self-cause stipulation. In other instances, allowing self-cause crisis needs assistance is up to the individual agency.

Personal Shelter

The two main types of housing are public emergency housing and personal emergency shelters. A personal shelter is something you might throw together to harbor yourself and your family from an oncoming storm when you are away from home, or any buildings. Personal emergency shelters also help you survive while looking for more permanent housing. You can build a personal shelter with a piece of tarp. Large tree branches from a wooded area placed in a teepee style dwelling with ferns or branches with leaves on them draped across them.

Unique Developments

Researchers in at Clemson University in Southern Carolina have come up with a unique way to provide emergency housing to natural disaster victims. They can create an entire community with unused shipping containers. These are extremely temporary, but very functional units. The containers can be set on jacks on weak ground, directly on the ground or even stacked for a bi, or tri-level unit. Using shipping containers is an interesting method of creating a very quick solution to a difficult situation.