What Defines Being Homeless?

Charity Organization

Did you know that on a single night in 2020, 580,466 people experienced homelessness in the United States? That’s an increase of 12,751 people from 2019. You may wonder, what exactly classifies you as being homeless? Well, according to the HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the definition of homelessness is an individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Broken down, this means you are considered homeless if:

  1. You have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant to live in.
  2. You are living in a shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements, to include hotels and motels.

There’s also 3 different types of homelessness; Situational, Episodic, and Chronic. People experience homelessness differently from each other and end up homeless for various of reasons. Depending on their individual situation is how they are classified. It’s crucial to understand the types of homelessness and their causes to develop effective strategies to tackle each one.

Situational Homelessness
Helping the Homeless

The first type of homelessness is Situational homelessness. This is when an individual or a family becomes homeless after a life-altering event, such as losing a job, a medical emergency, abuse, natural disasters, or even divorce. Sometimes people don’t have the support they need after experiencing a situation that has such a negative impact. This makes them temporarily or “situationally” homeless. Situational homelessness is usually temporary and can be resolved once that specific negative situation in their life is addressed.

Episodic Homelessness

Next, is episodic homelessness. This refers to someone who has on-and-off periods of being homeless, but has been homeless at least 3 times within a year’s span. Many individuals who are episodically homeless struggle with medical problems, substance abuse, and/or mental illness. Within this group of individuals, jobs are usually less stable, housing costs consume most of their budget, and they have little to no savings for emergencies. With these financial stressors in their lives they are at a constant risk of becoming homeless.

Chronic Homelessness

According to HUD, chronic homelessness refers to individuals that have spent a large portion of their life on the streets and have many issues that impede their ability to reconnect with their communities. Some of these issues include substance abuse, disabilities, and/or serious mental health problems. It makes it even more difficult for these individuals because of the lack of healthcare access that is available to them.

Why is this Important?

It’s easy for people to assume that individuals are homeless because they are an alcoholic or because of drugs, but that’s not always the case. If you lost everything you owned, residence included, and worked a minimum wage job, would you be able to rebuild your life? If you got divorced while living in California and had no family, support, and didn’t keep the residence after divorce, would you be able to afford somewhere to live in a high cost of living state? By understanding the different situations and types of homelessness people go through and experience, it will help us help them. People don’t want to be homeless and we can come together as a community to help those in need.

Our goal at Humanity for the Homeless is to build a network of people and corporations that are willing to take action with us to help solve homelessness. Whether it’s getting a hot meal, access to healthcare, or helping someone secure housing, we want to have a positive impact in someone’s life. Be the change with us and contact us today.

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