What is the Definition of Homeless?

Homeless is a term used to describe people who are without stable, affordable housing. This includes individuals living on the street, in shelters, in cars, canyons, and underpasses, and those who live temporarily with friends or family (often referred to as “couch surfers”). People experiencing homelessness are often stigmatized and discriminated against, leading to social isolation and a lack of connections to resources and communities. The causes of homelessness vary from person to person, but can include a lack of income, an insufficient rental market, family break-downs, substance abuse and mental health challenges, and criminal justice involvement.

Those experiencing homelessness are at greater risk of poor health, mental illness, and physical disability and have a lower quality of life than people who do not. There are a number of ways to help prevent and end homelessness, including increasing access to affordable housing and supportive services. Many local governments and communities partner with private and non-profit organizations to provide housing assistance, such as rental vouchers, emergency rental assistance, and homelessness prevention programs.

What is the Definition of Homeless?

The definition of homelessness varies depending on the language, socioeconomic conditions, and cultural norms in the regions or groups affected. However, the most important factor in defining homelessness is whether a person has access to adequate and sustainable housing. Other important factors in determining the definition of homelessness are whether the housing is safe, affordable and appropriate to meet an individual’s needs, as well as whether they have a regular place of residence, or the ability to return to a regular place of residence if they experience a setback such as an eviction.

There is also a need for more accurate and inclusive data about the population of homeless people. The federal government, through its Continuum of Care program, collects annual point-in-time data on the number of people who are experiencing homelessness in each community. This information is used to inform policy decisions and determine what services are needed to support the homeless population.

Some communities have experienced a reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness, while others have seen it increase. A key reason for the differences in homelessness rates is the availability of affordable and accessible housing options. Other important factors are changes in the economic environment and community characteristics, such as a lack of job opportunities or access to transportation. Changing these structural factors may help to reduce homelessness.