People who are Experiencing Homelessness


Each year between 2–3 three million people in the United States experience an episode of homelessness. The psychological and physical impact of homelessness is a matter of public health concern.

Among those living without homes are people of all ages, races, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, and immigration status. Homelessness occurs when a cascade of economic and interpersonal factors converge in the lives of people marginalized in society. When compared with the general population, people living without homes have poorer physical health, including higher rates of tuberculosis, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, as well as higher rates of medical hospitalizations.

Defining homelessness is not without controversy. Disagreement among policymakers, government officials, social scientists, and advocates exists over conditions that constitute homelessness, and by extension, who “is” or “is not” considered to be homeless. Such debates have far-reaching implications. For example, narrow definitions of homelessness may preclude people having access to housing subsidies and vouchers, emergency shelter and/or transitional housing programs, and specific social service programs. The following is an inclusive definition of homelessness:

Homelessness exists when people lack safe, stable, and appropriate places to live. Sheltered and unsheltered people are homeless. People living doubled up or in overcrowded living situations or motels because of inadequate economic resources are included in this definition, as are those living in tents or other temporary enclosures.




The above was adapted from the following:

American Psychological Association (2009). Helping People Without Homes: The Role of Psychologists and Recommendations to Advance Research, Training, Practice, and Policy. Retrieved on August 13, 2013 from:

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