Some common terms that relate to issues of homelessness include:
Homeless: Federally defined as “a person sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g. living on the streets) OR living in a homeless emergency shelter.”
Hidden homeless: These include people who are precariously housed and at eminent risk of becoming literally homeless. They may be doubled up with friends or relatives, or temporarily staying in a motel or sleeping in their cars. Hidden homeless refers to the fact they are not visibly homeless.
Chronic homelessness: Federally defined as “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”
Throwaway youth: A term used to describe two types of circumstance: 1) A child who is asked or told to leave home by a parent or other household adult, without adequate alternative care being arranged for the child by a household adult, and with the child out of the household overnight, or 2) A child who is away from home and is prevented from returning home by a parent or other household adult, without adequate alternative care being arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.
Affordable housing: Housing, either ownership or rental, for which a household will pay no more than 30% of its gross annual income.
Continuum of care: Organization of service providers established by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to oversee community planning around homelessness. Continua work together to define needs, plan strategies, and prioritize funding for supportive housing services.
Emergency housing: Temporary housing provided on an emergency basis. Stays at emergency shelters are limited in time and the amount of time varies among shelters. For some programs, emergency shelters are the first step in a series of steps as homeless adults and youth move from emergency to transitional to permanent housing.
Transitional housing: Housing that is more stable than emergency housing and that can be for a longer period of time, such as 1 to 2 years. Once homeless youth and adults have been stabilized in emergency housing, they may move to transitional housing as a next step.
Supportive housing: Subsidized housing directly tied to specific supportive services for homeless individuals or families who have come from emergency shelters or the streets. Supportive housing may be categorized as transitional (people may stay for up to 2 years) or permanent (there is no limit on the length of stay and clients abide by a lease).
Housing First: A term that that has come to mean providing a chronic homeless person with direct and immediate access to housing. It reverses the traditional concept of “treatment first and then housing” to “housing first and then appropriate treatment.” Housing first is a consumer driven model. It is producing successful outcomes for keeping people from returning to the streets.
Harm reduction: Harm reduction is a nonjudgmental philosophy that allows young people and adults to have input into their own recovery plans. A harm reduction approach begins with the person, allowing each person to progress at a comfortable pace.
Case management: The process of arranging for provision of an array of services and supports for an individual or family that is based on assessment of their unique needs and designed to address the specific needs identified.
These definitions come from a variety of sources, including: Larkinstreet.org; Anendinten.org; HUD; the Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; National Resource Center on Domestic Violence