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Different Types of Homelessness - by Maleek Ratliff

There is a misconception that every unhoused person is experiencing chronic homelessness, which means they have been unhoused for a long period of time. This is not always the case. Those who experience chronic homelessness are the most visible but there are four types of homelessness that exist; Chronic, Episodic, Transitional, and Hidden.


Chronic Homelessness

Chronic homelessness is used to describe people who have experienced homelessness for about a year or more. Those who fall under this category may have also repeatedly struggled with maintaining stable housing whether it be from having a serious physical or mental health issue, substance abuse disorder or being physically disabled. These are just some of the barriers that prevent homeless people from rising above their circumstances.

Episodic Homelessness

Episodic homelessness is defined as a person who has experienced three episodes of homelessness in the past year. After experiencing the fourth episode of homelessness within a year an individual is considered chronically homeless. People who fall into this category are often younger who are fighting health issues or struggle with addiction.

Transitional Homelessness

Transitional homelessness is the most common of the four categories of homelessness. Those who fit into this category are usually going through a major life change or have experienced a traumatic event such as unexpectedly losing their job. Individuals who are experiencing transitional homelessness are likely to enter a shelter or temporary housing system only for a brief stay. Before utilizing that option, they will try to stay with friends or relatives until housing opportunities present themselves.

Hidden Homelessness

Hidden homelessness includes people who become homeless but find a temporary solution by staying with family, friends or other insecure living situations. Out of the four categories Hidden homelessness is the most common to go unreported because those who fall under this category are less likely to access support resources, so they are not included in the national statistics.


Knowing the four categories of homelessness allows us to become more familiar with the guests who come in for our services. Understanding the different types of homelessness allows us to provide specific resources to those who want to overcome their circumstances.

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