What is Homelessness?

Homeless persons are those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, or those living in shelters and temporary housing, or public and private places not designed for sleeping accommodations (e.g. on the street, in cars, in parks, etc.). While many are individuals alone, others are couples, families with children, or unaccompanied youth. 

There are two types of homelessness: “sheltered” and “unsheltered”. Unsheltered homeless persons live on the streets or live in tents, cars, or abandoned buildings. Sheltered homeless persons stay in emergency or transitional housing temporarily. Sheltered homeless persons are still considered homeless because they lack their own stable permanent housing.  

There are four broad categories of homelessness in the Federal Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act:

  1. An individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence – living in a place not meant for human habitation, in a shelter or similar program, or, with specific restrictions, in an institution.
  2. An individual or family who will imminently lose housing, under certain circumstances.
  3. Under certain circumstances, unaccompanied youth, or families with children, who are consistently unstably housed and likely to continue in that state.
  4. People who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic or intimate violence and lack the resources to obtain other permanent housing.