Can you define Homeless?

Is someone homeless just because they don’t have a house?

The Federal Definition of Homelessness as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is written as “an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” and “an individual who has a primary nighttime residence” that is

  1. “a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter…”
  2. “an institution that provides a temporary residence for an individual intended to be institutionalized”
  3. “a public or private place not designed for… a regular sleeping accomodation for human beings

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However, a blog post by Dominic Mapstone for the “End Homelessness” section of change.org about the difference between “houselessness” and “homelessness” made me think further about this federal definition. [You can read the post here]  There is always going to be a need for a federal definition in situations that call for  research and statistics, but as many researchers have seen, homelessness statistics are consistently underscored.  Many times when we think about someone who is homeless, we think about someone without a house.  Mapstone goes further when talking about a family who has lost their house because of a fire, but he states that, “They aren’t homeless! That family still has each other and all their social connectedness and contacts are still intact.”

Homelessness is something more than being without a house.  Homelessness is having no connection, or no support.  I agree with Mapstone when he says that, “housed people experience this loneliness and isolation also.”  Ending homelessness calls for a reconnection between an individual and a community.  Providing OPTIONS and linkage to community resources is key to helping the homeless.

Visit HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program page to learn more about the services that are provided for the homeless.  Or, check out our Open Doors with Care page to see how you can continue to help our initiative.

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