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Types of Homelessness

Housing Unstable – when people have difficulty paying rent/mortgage, spending more than 30% of income on housing costs, moving frequently, or being overcrowded in a residence.

Hidden Homelessness – people who live with others temporarily without a permanent home. Since they lack access to housing support resources and cannot be identified, they are 'hidden' from national statistics on homelessness. Many in the “hidden homeless” population are younger people who have experienced a sudden catastrophic life change, trauma, or challenges.

Transitional Homelessness – tends to occur when a significant life change or catastrophic event. These life changes might be job loss, a health condition, divorce, domestic abuse, a substance use disorder, or personal or family crisis, among many others, resulting in people being in unhoused situations for less than a year.

Episodic Homelessness - describes people who experienced at least three periods of homelessness within the last 12 months. Many of those facing episodic homelessness are younger or dealing with a disabling condition. These conditions could be substance use disorder, mental illness, and other mental and/or physical health conditions. In some cases, some episodically unhoused people have seasonal or minimum wage income jobs.

Chronic Homelessness – describes people who have an observed disabling condition, continuously and literally homeless for a year or more, or who have experienced four or more episodes of homelessness in the past three years that total one year of homelessness.  Chronically homeless people tend to be older and make up nearly 20% of the homeless population. Many chronically unhoused people have complex, long-term health issues and live on the street, in parks, in cars, or in other places that are not suitable or safe for living.


Literal Homelessness (HUD definition) – Individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate residence, meaning:

  1. Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation; or

  2. Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state, and local government programs); or

  3. Is exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution.

McKinney-Vento Act definition of youth homelessness - Children and unaccompanied youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. 

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