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More than One Way to be Homeless...

When you think about homelessness, there is commonly a specific picture that comes to your mind.

Is that picture somewhere along the line of a person in dirty clothing, suffering from a mental health condition, and not someone you enthusiastically want to approach or help? This preconceived idea about what all people experiencing homelessness look or act like casts a shadow on the reality of homelessness within our community.

There are four types of homelessness that people can experience, and today, we are taking a deeper dive into each type and how we can support people at every stage to help end homelessness in our community.

Types of homelessness


Transitional homelessness often occurs when a catastrophic or disastrous event has happened in someone's life, for example, the loss of a job, domestic violence, or a major medical event. Transitional homelessness is the most common form of homelessness. Usually, people experience transitional homelessness temporarily, and employment is common among these individuals. “Many people experiencing transitional homelessness tend to be younger. Youth are often harassed and discriminated against when they seek alternative housing, contributing to their disproportionately high rate of homelessness.” – Red Nose Day


Episodic homelessness refers to people who fluctuate in and out of homelessness up to three times within a year. Periods of homelessness four times or greater a year are considered transitional homelessness. Episodic homelessness commonly affects the younger populations and people affected by health issues.


Chronic Homelessness is the most visible and known form of homelessness. It occurs when someone has experienced homelessness for an extended period. People navigating chronic homelessness experience significant barriers preventing access to resources and meeting basic needs. Complex mental and physical disabilities and addiction are common barriers that make chronic homelessness occur. This form of homelessness tends to affect the older population. “On a single night in January 2020, there were 110,528 homeless individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness. That is 27 percent of the total population of homeless individuals.” -National Alliance to End Homelessness


Hidden homelessness occurs when living accommodations are temporary. “Couch-surfing, sleeping in vehicles, and finding shelter in abandoned buildings are examples of hidden homelessness. “Experiencing hidden homelessness entails a living situation that is both physically and emotionally precarious.” -Homeless Hub Although available data on the experiences of hidden homelessness is limited, some studies have shown factors like affordable housing, chronic illness, discrimination, and family breakdown as common factors leading to hidden homelessness. It's estimated that the younger population and LGBTQ+ communities are disproportionately affected by hidden homelessness.

Homelessness is not a “one size fits all” social issue within our community. Multiple factors contribute to how and why people experience homelessness. The good news? We have many opportunities and avenues to advocate for and support people through any stage of homelessness they may be experiencing. Our approach at Community Suds is the commitment to ending hygiene and sanitation hardships for people experiencing homelessness. The vision of a community free of homelessness is mighty, but together we are ending homelessness one load at a time.


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