What is Homeless?

What is Homeless?

Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b) defines homeless as an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building, or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation

The Department of Housing and Urban Development categorizes the homeless into the following four categories. These categories are useful when assessing individuals and families to determine what resources will best fit their needs.


Category 1: Literally Homeless

Individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime 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.

Note: An individual or family only needs to meet one of the three subcategories to qualify as Homeless Category 1: Literally Homeless.


Category 2: Imminent Risk of Homelessness

An individual or family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence, provided that:

1. Residence will be lost within 14 days of the date of application for homeless assistance;

2. No subsequent residence has been identified; and

3. The individual or family lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing.

Note: Includes individuals and families who are within 14 days of losing their housing, including housing they own, rent, are sharing with others, or are living in without paying rent.


Category 3: Homeless Under Other Federal Statutes

Unaccompanied youth under 25 years of age, or families with Category 3 children and youth, who do not otherwise qualify as homeless under this definition, but who:

1. Are defined as homeless under the other listed federal statutes;

2. Have not had a lease, ownership interest in permanent housing during the 60 days prior to the homeless assistance application;

3. Have experienced persistent instability as measured by two moves or more during in the preceding 60 days; and

4. Can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time due to special needs or barriers.

Note: HUD has not authorized any CoC to serve the homeless under Category 3. HUD determines and approves the use of CoC Program funds to serve this population based on each CoC’s Consolidated Application. See 24 CFR 578.89. Individuals and families that qualify as homeless under Category 3 may be served by the ESG program if they meet required eligibility criteria for certain ESG components.


Category 4: Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence

Any individual or family who:

1. Is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence;

2. Has no other residence; and

3. Lacks the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing

Note: For the purposes of this binder, “Domestic Violence” includes dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other dangerous or life-threatening conditions that relate to violence against the individual or family member that either takes place in, or him or her afraid to return to, their primary nighttime residence (including human trafficking).


References: hudexchange.info, law.cornell.edu