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What does it mean to be homeless?  

People who do not have permanent housing are considered to be homeless.  A homeless person may live on the streets, in an abandoned building, a vehicle, or be staying in a shelter or temporary housing.

Why does homelessness occur?  

Homelessness and poverty are linked.  The main reason people experience homelessness in the United States is because there is not enough affordable housing.  Many people living in poverty and even some of those who are homeless have jobs, but do not make enough money to cover all of the expenses they have.  They must often make the difficult decision of what to spend their money on. Like everyone else, they have to pay for housing, food, clothing, childcare, and health care.  If you are poor, you could be one illness, accident, or paycheck away from living on the streets because you do not have enough left over money to cover these unexpected problems.

Who is affected by homelessness? 

Homelessness and poverty affects people from all walks of life, from families and individuals to the elderly and military veterans. Homelessness occurs in big cities, rural communities, and even in the suburbs.  

How long has homelessness been a problem? 

Homelessness and poverty are problems that humans have always dealt with.  Among the earliest settlers, many of the poor were orphans, widows, and people who were too old or sick to work. People from the community would sometimes give them food, firewood, or small amounts of money because they felt it was their responsibility to help them.  Over time, industrialization and immigration caused poverty to grow.  In recent years, job loss and home foreclosures have also increased the number of people who are homeless.    

Learn More

Video: The New HomelessVideo: Columbus, Ohio artist shares stories of his time spent with local people challenged by homelessness(PDF) Books on this topic(PDF) Books on this topic part 2(PDF) Service Project Ideas

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