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About Homelessness

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.

What is At-Risk of Homelessness?

Persons at-risk of homelessness are individuals or families who have an annual income below 30 percent of the median family income for the area, as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; do not have sufficient resources or support networks, e.g., family, friends, faith-based or other social networks, immediately available to prevent them from moving to an emergency shelter; and meet one of the following conditions:

  • Has moved because of economic reasons two or more times during the 60 days immediately preceding the application for homelessness prevention assistance; 
  • Is living in the home of another because of economic hardship;
  • Has been notified in writing that their right to occupy their current housing or living situation will be terminated within 21 days after the date of application for assistance;
  • Lives in a hotel or motel and the cost of the hotel or motel stay is not paid by charitable organizations or by Federal, State, or local government programs for low-income individuals;
  • Lives in a single-room occupancy or efficiency apartment unit in which there reside more than two persons or lives in a larger housing unit in which there reside more than 1.5 persons reside per room, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau;
  • Is exiting a publicly funded institution, or system of care (such as a health-care facility, a mental health facility, foster care or other youth facility, or correction program or institution); or
  • Otherwise lives in housing that has characteristics associated with instability and an increased risk of homelessness.