Defining homelessness

(from the the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy):

  • Chronically homeless refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions (e.g. chronic physical or mental illness, substance abuse problems), who are currently homeless and have been homeless for six months or more in the past year (i.e., have spent more than 180 cumulative nights in a shelter or place not fit for human habitation)

  • Episodically homeless refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions, who are currently homeless and have experienced three or more episodes of homelessness in the past year (of note, episodes are defined as periods when a person would be in a shelter or place not fit for human habitation, and after at least 30 days, would be back in the shelter or inhabitable location)

The definitions of chronically and episodically homeless individuals include all sub-populations, such as Veterans and/or Aboriginals. The definitions also include individuals exiting institutions (e.g. child welfare system, mental health facilities, hospitals, and correctional institutions) who have a history of chronic and episodic homelessness and cannot identify a fixed address upon their release.

Examples include:

  • Individuals who have been homeless (in a shelter or living on the street) for three to five months over a year.
  • Individuals who experienced two or more episodes of homelessness over a year.
  • Individuals currently in transitional housing.