What does it mean to be homeless?

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an individual or family needs to fall in one of the four categories below to be meet its definition of “homeless”. These are NOT eligibility criteria for assistance programs.

1) Individuals and families who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; includes a subset for individuals who resided in an emergency shelter or a place not meant for human habitation and are exiting an institution where s/he temporarily resided.

2) Individuals and families who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence.

3) Unaccompanied youth who are defined as homeless under other federal statutes who do not otherwise qualify as homeless under this definition.

4) Individuals and families who are fleeing, or are attempting to flee, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions that relate to violence against the individuals or a family member.

Learn about other HUD definitions here.

There are individuals who do not meet the HUD definition of homeless, but still have an unstable housing situation. Perhaps they are sleeping on a friend’s sofa, had a sudden change in finances and cannot pay rent next month, or live in a motel. These individuals might benefit from housing assistance. Please refer to Centralized Housing Intake (CHI) to learn more.

How we address homelessness

The Continuum, through state and federal funding to local Non-Profit Agencies, provides temporary shelter, Rapid Rehousing for homeless individuals, and Permanent Supportive Housing solutions for persons with chronic needs. The funding also helps persons who are at imminent risk of losing their housing. Pervasive and at the core of the homeless crisis is the lack of affordable housing for people with low and very low income.

Our Western Virginia VA-513 Continuum region has rural and urban communities working to solve homelessness on a local and regional level. Homelessness in the Shenandoah Valley is a constant issue for every community. Every January, HUD requires each CoC to conduct a Point in Time Count to gauge how many people are literally homeless (in shelters or places not for habitation). In January 2019, the numbers increased by approximately 12%. The region comprises six counties and two cities. There is a wide area of rural land. Rural homelessness can be invisible. There are many people sleeping in tents, abandoned farm buildings, cars and other places that can blend into the countryside in rural locations. Some families are doubled up with friends and family and are at risk of imminent homelessness.

As a Continuum of Care, we are tasked with doing more with the resources we are given.  We are working on a new initiative that brings the CoC together with partners in the community to identify the most vulnerable persons who are homeless and provide case conferencing and prioritized case management through community outreach and coordination of services. With this initiative (Built for Zero), we hope to reduce the numbers of chronically homeless and homeless veterans in our region.

Want to Learn More About Homelessness?

While this website focuses on the Western Virginia CoC specifically, you may want to learn more about the broad subjects of housing and homelessness. The sites below are just a few of many that can help you in your search for more information. Links will open in a new window.

Virginia Housing Alliance HUD Exchange Housing Virginia

National Alliance to End Homelessness U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness