What should the definition of homelessness be?

as above

For what purpose? It’s contextual. A welfare program providing benefits for “homeless people” needs a concise definition that can be adjudicated in day-to-day operations. Socially, there’s a lot more leeway.

Is a young person who has just recently turned 18 but is still living in his parents’ home considered “homeless”? If I decide to move to California and buy a house there, but the house technically won’t close until February 10 and I live in a motel for one week and then have an sleepover vacation with my sister’s family, am I “homeless” during either of those periods?

Going out on a limb here, but perhaps it would be someone without a home?


But socially, it implies that the person is unable to afford a home, rather than the person being someone who is in the process of moving and was unable to line up the date and time by which they must vacate their old home with the date and time that they may begin living in their new one. E.g. you vacate Apartment #1 on January 25, 2012 at 7 AM but the house you are buying won’t have all the paperwork finished until after lunch.

Well, it was a throw away one liner there. For a precise definition I suppose ‘have no home, and no means to acquire one’, to be a bit more precise. You can parse it as many times as you like, and expand on it, but in the end if you have no place to live and keep your stuff, and no means to get one, then I think that’s a pretty good definition of ‘homeless’.


Not having a decent place to sleep. And IMO “decent” excludes anywhere outdoors, shelters, or a car. Living with parents is definitely not “homeless”. Long-term periods of couch serfing is something of a border case, and there I’d say that “homelessness” depends on how reliably someone can find a place to sleep. Sleeping in friends’ spare rooms for a few months? Not homeless. Knocking on the doors of every possible acquaintance and begging for a place to sleep? Homeless.

Someone with less than 10 words to spend on a discussion?

I would say not having a permanent place to live and not having the means to acquire a place. When I left my ex and spent a month in a shelter I considered myself homeless, and after I left the shelter I was allowed to stay at my parents briefly, but I was not welcome to live there, so I was still homeless. I never slept outside or in a car, but I was homeless just the same.

. . . and not knowing the definition of “debate.”

I was using wireless and it started raining.

Anyway, I asked this question because there is a big uproar in certain British papers about defining families where the children have to share a room as ‘homeless’

So, is it still raining, or is the debate topic forthcoming?

I already said the debate topic, I didn’t come in here with my mind already made up:p

Well, to kick things off, maybe you could take a huge risk and post how you define homelessness. If you’re not able to do that, then isn’t this more of an IMHO topic?

Given that you posted the topic due to a “big uproar” in “certain British papers” regarding a ridiculous definition of homelessness, maybe you could help us out a smidge and give us a link, or the name of the paper, something to frame the discussion.

Here. Very first result when you google it.

It’s a horrible debate, though - the newspaper one, not this thread. It’s all based on Ian Duncan Smith lying about what a homeless charity considers homeless. Shelter never consider two kids sharing a room to be homeless.

Here’s what ‘homeless’ means:

To clarify, that means:

Rough sleepers, including people who couch-surf a lot but don’t have a regular sofa to sleep on;

People living in hospices or ex-prisoner units where they don’t have a permanent home to go to when they leave.

People living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, i.e. small, cheap, short-stay hotels - this is partly because this is where the govt sometimes puts homeless families while they wait for a permanent home; there is usually severe overcrowding, no cooking facilities and no guarantee of being able to stay in that particular home for more than a few days.

People living with extended family or friends if there’s overcrowding. I’m not sure what the definition of overcrowding is here, but it definitely would not include, say, two adult brothers sharing a room, since that’s not even true for children.

People living with extended family or with friends if those people no longer want them there - they’re there on sufferance.
In practice, the latter two groups of people are very unlikely to get any govt help unless they have a disability, children, are elderly or are otherwise vulnerable. They count towards homeless statistics because in reality they don’t have a proper ‘home,’ but they only count if they do something like apply for housing so come to notice as being homeless.

The ‘overcrowding’ thing IDS was talking about is where, if two or more children over ten years old and of opposite sex are sharing a room, their families would have some eligibility for social housing. The overcrowding does not mean that they are considered homeless.

Note that this only means eligibility for social housing - it means they can apply and will be put in a certain needs band. In many areas of the country that would nonetheless mean that they never get into social housing. I know several families who meet his overcrowding criterion and have other official housing needs (like disabilities) who’ve been waiting for years. By the time a place comes up, they’ll no longer be eligible.

It looks like the actual definition involves opposite-sex children who are both above age 10. So, if 12 year old Billy and 11 year old Suzie are sharing a room, then they have a problem with that.

I should have googled meaning of homelessness, not definition of homelessness. Thank you for helping me out.

This uproar does seem to be a tempest in a teapot.