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The Job Description of an Executive Director of a Homeless Shelter

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The executive director of a homeless shelter is also considered the chief executive officer (CEO). The CEO is the highest-ranking employee at the shelter and reports on its progress, goals and finances to a board of directors. A homeless shelter is a temporary residence for homeless people and is usually open to anyone without regard to the reason. However, some shelters limit their clientele by gender or age. Some shelters are for sleeping only. Residents stay elsewhere during the daytime and return only to sleep. Other shelters provide meals and allow residents to stay all day and night except when they leave for work or school.

Primary Responsibilities

The executive director ensures the organization is on track in completing its mission objectives and informs the board of directors on the condition of the shelter and factors affecting its status. The executive director establishes an internal and external leadership role, ensuring that the best interests of the organization are represented. The CEO creates the long-term strategy for the shelter to reach it goals and achieve its mission, which includes monitoring the budget. An executive director is in charge of official records and documents and ensures the organization complies with federal, state and local laws. The director should keep updated on new trends and industry information and oversees the recruitment of other employees and volunteers.


An ideal executive director is energetic, committed to the goals of the homeless organization and able to communicate and implement ideas. The CEO needs to be a problem-solver who works with employees as well as volunteers. Strong management skills are a must, and the executive director needs the skills to motivate and educate. An ideal candidate develops and implements goals and systems and prioritizes tasks. This position is for someone who is proactive and can handle several responsibilities simultaneously.

Work Environment

Many homeless shelters are located in urban neighborhoods with large populations. The executive director usually works in an office within the shelter and interacts with the residents daily. There will be a variety of people within the shelter at any time. Some of these guests have been previously institutionalized or living on the streets for many years. Some residents are there for long periods, and others stop in for a meal or a few nights. Many people use shelters as temporary housing while trying to become self-sufficient.


Most organizations require at least five years of experience and a record of accomplishment in nonprofit and fund-raising work of their executive directors. A bachelor's degree is required and a master's degree preferred. Studies in finance, accounting, social work and business are valued.


According to research by, as of 2009, the average annual salary for a CEO of a nonprofit organization was approximately $160,000. This salary depends upon the size of the organization, its location and the education and experience the executive director brings to the job.


Based in Utah, Kristi Labrum has been writing since 2004. She has worked in the film and television industry and was a wedding photographer. Her work was published in "Grace Ormonde" and "Modern Bride" magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business management from Brigham Young University and a Master of Arts in public relations from the University of Southern California.

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