Define Homeless

Defining “homeless” or “homelessness” is not so easy to do, especially if you want to be accurate. In the Wikipedia entry for “Homelessness” there is this statement, “Defining “homelessness” is a complex and difficult thing to do.” The Wikipedia page on homelessness has undergone some recent changes for which I am glad. I recommend giving it a read.
Mostly, the problem has to do with the laziness of the general citizen who throws around terms about homelessness interchangeably, as if they are only variations on the theme. (kinda like people accusing President Obama of being a Socialist and a Communist and a Nazi and a Muslim all at the same time) “Street People” are not necessarily homeless. Conversely, not all homeless people spend all their time living on the streets. If a person is couch surfing, they are not living on the street, but the home in which they reside is not theirs, and the arrangements made, so to sleep on someone’s couch for a period of time are tentative at best.
Does living day to day at a rescue mission constitute a “home”? I have lived in the same place for over 4 years now. But I got this place by being in a program for the homeless. My case manager says I’m no longer homeless, but does this program make me not homeless? Or, is this just a homeless shelter with better amenities? When I lived in a halfway house for the homeless. It was a house owned and operated by a church that took in half a dozen homeless men. My residing there was conditional on my fulfilling certain requirements of the church. Did living there make me not homeless? Is there any difference between the house owned by the church, and the housing I have now – created by a government entity?
Paying rent doesn’t seem to be an absolute definition of being homed, either. Most Salvation Army shelters charge the homeless for the right to spend the night there – about 10 dollars each night. Other shelters charge rent as well. Is having to work, do chores, etc., the same as paying rent?
Personally, I think the main consideration that should be made, as to whether a person is homeless or not, should be regarding societies reaction to a person’s living situation. A person is not homeless when society accepts and allows for the situation in which people are living. If society gives its o.k., if the police do not harass the resident, if laws are not created so to discourage or inconvenience the person within their living arrangement, then I’d say the person was not homeless. This does not mean that a rescue mission or a shelter is a home. The administration and employees of such places work to get you out of those places as much as possible. So, shelters cannot be considered a home. Neither can living in a motor home, as there is no permanent place for a person to set their motor home. Most camping sites limit how long people can stay at the camps, usually only a couple months.
Only when society allows and accepts a person’s living situation, free from any harassment, can that person be considered no longer homeless.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless


  1. …One can do a lot of diierent definings of homeless…Are the ” Winnebago Warrior ” sort of idealized-by-the-media retired people who have sold their home and are traveling around the country homeless ? Michael Parks in THEN CAME BRONSON/Fonda and Hopper in EASY RIDER ? Maybe so !!


  2. I live in Dallas Tx, and have been homeless before and soon will be again. Shelters here are dysfunctional, collecting money left and right and only a few dimes actually make it down to the bottom to us, it's pretty much panhandling with a middleman. Some of us have gotten together to launch a web site Do you think it is the right way to go or are people not at all concerned about where their money goes, just as long as they can say “I have done my part and donated”?
    We would appreciate your feedback, seeing you have been on the web a while. Thanks


  3. “People ask me all the time, “Do you feel limited by the mistakes that you have made in the past?

    ‘Well, certainly there are times that I feel that way, but I can never let that stop me from trying to achieve what I want to achieve.’ … I live in a world of possibility!

    I learned a long-long time ago… nothing and no one could stop me from achieving my dreams . . . but me. If I ever give up, I may as well dig a hole and jump in.

    Let's face it… in 1977 I was homeless Marine Corps Veteran, living on the corner of 7th street and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles in a cardboard Maytag box. I knew then, that no one was ever going to help me no matter how many times I begged for help and spare change. If I were ever going to make anything out of myself, I was the one who had to break out of my self-imposed funk and get my life together. And you know what? I did!

    How many people do you know with barely a GED who has been able to become the Chief Executive Officer of over fifteen of America's most well known corporations? To be able to achieve this kind of success without any formal academic training is next to impossible.

    Everything I learned was from reading hundreds of books and when the Internet was invented, I spent hours learning everything I could like a sponge.

    Therefore, I tell people… If you dream it . . . YOU CAN BECOME IT.

    I was able to turn myself into anyone I wanted to become. I studied, I focused, I memorized, I practiced and then . . . I went out into the world and I DID IT!

    I do not get why we have so many unemployed people in America. If I had fifty homeless people in a room for one month, I promise you, they would not be homeless much longer. Now times that by thousands, and maybe we would make a small dent as to how many people are on the unemployment rolls.

    I can make you this very clear promise. Give me 50 or 100 homeless people for one month who are seriously wanting to get their lives together and lead a decent life, and I will give you back the same number of highly trained; well qualified; eager and ready highly motivated people; who are employed in decent jobs that pay well; have a place to live, money in the bank, and look like they just walked off the pages of GQ Magazine.

    There is no question this is possible. How do I know this? Because I proved it, not only in my own life, but I prove it every time I am able to put together a class and I am able to commit the time necessary to do it.

    Go ahead… test me. Let me pick 50 homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles, and I will show you what I can do. It is literally an amazing transformation.

    You see in order to help others; you really do need to have lived or walked in their shoes for a while, in order to truly understand what they are going through.

    I know what it is like to be living in the cold in a cardboard box on a street corner of Main Street USA. It is not a very nice experience.

    I made myself successful, because I refused to allow society to tell me that I was all washed up. A failure. A has been. I got angry and upset each time someone told me when I was homeless to “Get a Job.” However, you know what? I never thought I would ever say this, but I thank those people for telling me this. Because it was what I actually did. And I did it well”


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