The Types of Homelessness

According to Websters Dictionary, homeless is an advective that is defined as (of a person) without a home, and therefore typically living on the streets. Homelessness is therefore is a noun that is defined as the, “state of having no home”. Having a home falls at the very foundation of Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs.

You Don’t Have to Be on the Street to Be Homeless

Technically, you don’t have to be living on the street to be considered as homeless. Even if you have a roof over your head you can still be without a home. This state of homelessness is the result of the lack of rights to stay where you live or your home is unsuitable for you to occupy.

The Types of Homelessness

Initially homelessness was only in 3 types, but as of recent, homelessness has been broken up into 4 separate categories.

Chronic Homelessness

The chronically homeless individual is described as either:

  • An unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more


  • Has had a minimum of four episodes of homelessness in the previous three years.

Based on the most recent data , on any given night there are roughly 86,962 chronically homeless individuals in the U.S., representing 24% of the total homeless population. Typically, these individuals:

  • Are older
  • Have complex, long-term health issues
  • Often live on the street, in a car, park, or other location that is not suitable for human habitation.

Episodic Homelessness

This type of homelessness refers to individuals who are currently homeless and have experienced at least three periods of homelessness in the previous year. These individuals are often younger and suffer from some type of disabling condition, such as:

  • Substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Medical problems.

Transitional Homelessness

is actually the most common type of homelessness. These individuals are also likely to be younger and generally enter a shelter or temporary housing system for only one brief stay. This situation could be the result of a catastrophic event or sudden life change.

Provisionally Occupied

Provisionally occupied is a fourth type of homelessness that is undocumented the majority of the time. This is because these individuals are experiencing what is known as “hidden homelessness.” This type of homelessness specifically refers to individuals temporarily living with others without any sort of long-term  guarantee that they will be able to stay and have they have no immediate prospects of acquiring permanent housing. This type of homelessness often describes people staying with friends or relatives because they lack other housing opportunities.

Homelessness takes many forms and isn’t always obvious.

As a matter of fact, as our society has “become more affluent”, the use of the word homeless has skyrocketed. As can be seen by the diagram below: