Homeless Services Glossary

Like in any research and/or professional field, descriptions of homelessness and homeless services can seem filled with jargon. It helps academics, professionals, agencies, funders, and government bodies stay on the same page, but it can confuse everyone else (who, naturally, are in other fields with their own jargon).  

We're putting together a glossary of terms you may have seen on our website, our publications, or broader coverage of homelessness. We hope that it clears up any confusion you may have, and we'll continuously update it based on your input. If you have questions about what something means, don’t hesitate to shoot me a note at suhs@beds-plus.org 

Affordable Housing: A housing unit available for less than 30 percent of a household's income. 

Area Median Income (AMI): An income amount that splits area households into two halves, one making more than the amount and the other making less. AMI's are used to classify households as "low income," "very low income," or "extremely low income," which determines if they qualify for government housing programs. 

Behavioral Health: The state of a person's emotions, behaviors, and biology as they relate to their mental health and a preferred term to "mental health."

Chronic Homelessness: A person or family that has been homeless for at least a year (or repeatedly over an extended time) with a concurrent disability, chronic illness, or behavioral health condition. 

Continuum of Care: A regional or local organization that coordinates housing and services funding for people and families experiencing homelessness or imminent risk of homelessness. 

Coordinated Entry: The process that directs people and families seeking homeless services to a specific provider(s) within a continuum of care. 

Domestic Violence: A behavior pattern used by an intimate relationship partner to exercise power and control over the other partner.  

Doubled Up: A person or family living in typically unsustainable arrangements with extended family, friends, or other non-relatives. People living doubled up are not considered homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and not included in annual Point-In-Time homeless counts. 

Extremely Low Income: A person or family making 30 percent or less than the Area Median Income (AMI). 

Fleeing Domestic Violence: A person or family leaving or trying to leave an abusive relationship without a place to stay or the resources and support to get a place to stay. 

Housing: A blanket term for houses and apartments. 

Housing Burdened: A person or family devoting more than 30 percent of their income to housing. 

Housing Choice Voucher: Federal assistance for qualified families, elderly people, and disabled people to find housing in the private market. 

Imminent Risk of Homelessness: A person or family that will lose their home within 14 days without a place to stay or the resources and support to get a place to stay. 

Literally Homelessness: A person or family that does not have a place to sleep, sleeps somewhere not meant for people, stays in an emergency shelter, or is temporarily institutionalized without a place to stay or the resources and support to get a place to stay. 

Low Income: A person or family making 80 percent or less than the Area Median Income (AMI). 

Very Low Income: A person or family making 50 percent or less than the Area Median Income (AMI). 

 

Communications & Advocacy Specialist
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