Homelessness & Poverty
Homeless Not Helpless

What is a home?

It is easier to understand "homelessness" by taking a minute to define "home."

Most of us associate "home" with these essential things:

What is homelessness?

Someone is "homeless" when they do not have a place to live that is like what we just described as "home."

The obvious "homeless people" are those who are sleeping on the street, in doorways and alleys, on park benches or behind bushes.

Camping out by choice is not "homelessness" because you have a place to live, you just choose not to use it -- temporarily or long term.

Someone staying in a homeless shelter, a tent, an abandoned building, or a friend's unfinished basement is still homeless. This is called "substandard housing."

Even "couch surfing," or staying with a series of friends or family, may qualify as homelessness if you have no choice, no privacy, no place that is "yours", or you're uncertain how long each couch is available.

Federal Definition of "homeless":

The official definition of "Homeless person, child or youth" includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

  1. An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime place of abode.
  2. An individual who has a primary nighttime place of abode that is:
    1. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
    2. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
    3. a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

The Hidden Definitions

There are other elements of homelessness not covered in these definitiions.


Homeless Page


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Last updated November 29, 2002