How is Homelessness Defined?

  • Sleeping in an emergency shelter;
  • Sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, or abandoned or condemned buildings;
  • Spending a short time (30 consecutive days or less) in a hospital or other institution, but ordinarily sleeping in the types of places mentioned above;
  • Living in transitional/supportive housing but having come from streets or emergency shelters;
  • Being evicted within a week from a private dwelling unit and having no subsequent residence identified and lacking the resources and support networks needed to obtain access to housing; or
  • Being discharged from an institution and having no subsequent residence identified and lacking the resources and support networks needed to obtain access to housing.

How many people are homeless in the U.S.?

This question is often asked and widely answered in a variety of ways in terms of numbers, time periods, and public and private sources of information. Due to the circumstances of homelessness, it is very difficult to come up with a reliable number of people who experience homelessness. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the National Alliance to End Homelessness report that "between 700,000 and 800,000 people are homeless on any given night in America." "Over the course of a year between 2.3 and 3.5 million people will experience homelessness in this country."

In a March 2003 published report entitled "Ending Chronic Homelessness: Strategies for Action" the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) stated that "each year, approximately one (1) percent of the U.S. population, some two to three million individuals, experience a night of homelessness." DHHS also notes that their estimate is conservative for it does not include those who do not contact a homeless assistance provider, e.g. those who may be taken in by a friend or spend the night in their car, etc. DHHS also notes in the report that "somewhere between four (4) to six (6) percent of the poor experience homelessness" on any given day.

How do people become homeless?

NAEH has identified several factors that have affected the growth of homelessness over the last three decades including:

According to NAEH, in 1970 there were 300,000 more affordable housing units available than there were low-income households needing to rent them. By 2002, there were over 5 million fewer affordable units than low-income households that needed them.

What is chronic homelessness?

HUD defines a chronically homeless person as "an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition" who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

Chronic homelessness may be caused by substance abuse, mental illness, or physical disabilities. Due to the nature of homelessness, it is very difficult to measure the number of chronically homeless individuals across the country. Using the best available data and research, NAEH estimates that between 10 to 20 percent of homeless single adults are chronically homeless; this translates into between 150,000 and 200,000 chronically homeless people.

How many people are homeless in Riverside?

Based on the results from the bi-annual Homeless Census conducted in January of 2013, there are 571 homeless individuals in the City of Riverside, and in the County of Riverside, there are 4,508 homeless individuals on any given day. For more information on Riverside's homeless population click on the links to the 2007 County of Riverside Homeless Count and the 2009 County of Riverside Homeless Survey.