What is Homelessness?

3 housesHomelessness is defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as an individual or family lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is either a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill); or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

How many people in the US are Homeless?

In the United States, on any given night, there are almost 600,000 homeless people. Most of these people are spending the night in homeless shelters or in some sort of short-term transitional housing or structure.  Slightly more than a third are living in cars, under bridges or in some other way living unsheltered. Approximately one quarter of these people are children under 18.

Estimates of homeless people

Graphic from: The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress – HUD Dept. of Community Planning and Development


What are the 3 different types of homelessness?

  • Situational or transitional/short-term homelessness is defined as a person forced into homelessness due to a life event (loss of a job, disaster, losing a family member who is the breadwinner, domestic violence).
  • Episodic or cyclical homelessness occurs when a person falls in and out of being homeless, many times due to mental illness or addiction.
  • Chronic/long term homelessness is the term used for a person who is homeless for long periods of time usually because they don’t have the resources (family, friends, etc.) to change their living situation. These too are often people experiencing ongoing mental health or addiction issues.

Where do homeless people go?

  • Shelters – Large cities usually have homeless shelters dedicated to housing people without permanent shelter. Sometimes these facilities provide meals as well as shelter. Emergency shelters are not meant for long-term housing and will have limits on how long people can stay. You can call 1-800-RUNAWAY for help in finding shelters in your area.
  • Squatting – Someone who is homeless may seek out an unoccupied building for shelter. These structures usually don’t have running water or electricity and they pose the risk of trespassing violations.
  • Couch Surfing – Sleeping at friends or family’s houses is another housing option for homeless individuals and families. In addition to not having a reliable place to stay every day, this option can cause a burden on the friend/family in whose home they are staying.

What should you do if you find yourself facing homelessness?

  • Local homeless assistance agencies provide a range of services, including shelter, food, housing counseling, and job skills programs. Start by contacting one in your area.
  • Dial 2-1-1 on your phone or visit www.211.org for housing assistance in your area.

If you are a bookseller, call Binc or visit www.BincFoundation.org

In 2014, Binc helped prevent five booksellers and their families from becoming homeless. Homelessness Prevention assistance grants totaled $7,013 in 2014. Binc is on track to continue this level of support for homelessness prevention in 2015, as at the mid-year date we have already provided 4 homelessness prevention grants totaling $6,055.           

“The Foundation helped me when I had nowhere else to turn. My husband had abandoned me and our two children. All the household bills were behind and my children and I were being threatened with eviction and the loss of our utilities. [After talking to the Foundation, I received] prompt and compassionate relief.

The Foundation grant enabled me to pay the rent and the utilities. Beside the obvious financial help, the money gave me a space to live and make future plans for me and my family without the crushing financial pressure that engulfed my every waking moment. I will always be grateful for the money and for the way it was handled. I kept my dignity and felt supported by a large and benevolent organization.”

– A Binc grant recipient from North Carolina

Housing assistance may be provided to a grant applicant, if they are facing imminent eviction or homelessness. We strive to review bookseller requests confidentially and expediently, with a goal of getting the bookseller in safe housing as soon as possible

What expenses may be considered for Binc assistance:

  • Security deposit to move into new rental home or apartment or funding to bring the rent current. (The bookseller must be financially able to pay monthly rent going forward to be eligible for consideration.)
  • Essential utility bill deposits; limited to first month if pre-payment is required (electric, natural gas, water & sanitation)
  • Application fee(s)

An applicant is only eligible for one homelessness/eviction prevention grant per their tenure as a bookstore employee or former Borders associate.

More Resources:

National Coalition for the Homeless

National Healthcare for the Homeless Council

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

5 Replies to “What is Homelessness?”

  1. None of the MORE RESOURCES links on this page work.

    More Resources:
    National Coalition for the Homeless
    National Healthcare for the Homeless Council
    National Alliance to End Homelessness
    Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

      1. These links still haven’t bern updated since the two months that you were alerted to this. Please fix this, so people can get the help they need.

        1. Hello,
          Thank you for checking back. We are currently in the processing of redesigning our website. This will be corrected in the redesign later this month.

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