What Does It Mean to Be Homeless? How Definitions Affect Homelessness Policy

By Andrew Sullivan (University of Central Florida) | Organizations and policymakers have recently brought the definition of homelessness to the forefront, including multiple reports by the Government Accountability Office, and the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2021 which was introduced but not passed. Much of this debate stems from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) not including households living doubled-up – i.e., sharing housing due to economic hardship, loss of housing, or a similar reason – as homeless, contrary to many other definitions of homelessness. As such, reviewing how federal agencies measure homelessness provides insight into how they define the problem of housing insecurity and what impacts measurement has on determining where services are most needed. How scholars and policymakers define homelessness alters its measurement and perceived prevalence, driving where agencies target assistance and shaping policy solutions. Read More

February 1, 2023 // 0 Comments

Where in Los Angeles Do Homeless People Sleep? The Neighborhood Distribution of Unsheltered Homelessness and Its Changes Over Time

By Eun Jin Shin (Sungkyunkwan University) | Homelessness has been one of the most critical issues facing major US cities in recent decades. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report (2020), about 0.57 million people in the United States experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2019. Although some cities, like Chicago, have witnessed a general downward trend in homelessness in recent years, numbers have risen dramatically in Los Angeles—an area known for long-standing high homelessness rates. Read More

May 12, 2022 // 2 Comments

Who Banishes? City Power and Anti-homeless Policy in San Francisco

By David J. Amaral (University of California, Santa Cruz) | Homelessness is a pressing concern facing cities throughout the United States but is especially pronounced in urban California. The state is home to roughly a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in the country, more than two thirds of whom are unsheltered (about double the national rate). In his 2020 State of the State address, California Governor Gavin Newsom devoted the bulk of his attention to the issue of homelessness, claiming that “the California Dream is dimmed by the wrenching reality of families, children and seniors living unfed on a concrete bed.” This year, following the social and economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor’s 2021 budget dedicated $4.8 billion to addressing the state’s homeless crisis, representing a dramatic increase in homeless-related spending at the state level. Read More

October 19, 2021 // 1 Comment

No Right to Rest: Police Enforcement Patterns and Quality of Life Consequences of the Criminalization of Homelessness

Tony Robinson | In response to a persistently high number of people experiencing homelessness, concerns have grown among many local officials that the urban environment is being undermined by the presence of unsheltered homeless people, living in public places. An associated concern is that when homeless people are allowed to conduct acts of living in public spaces (such as sleeping or panhandling), they fall into unhealthy behavioral patterns that lengthen their spell of homelessness and undermine their long-term prospects. As a response, an increasing number of cities are criminalizing activities common to homeless people, passing laws that prohibit such things as sleeping, sitting, eating, panhandling, or sheltering in public spaces. Read More

August 22, 2019 // 1 Comment