Understanding Homelessness

Homelessness is a global challenge.

The United Nations Human Settlements Program estimates that 1.1 billion people live in inadequate housing, and the best data available suggest that more than 100 million people have no housing at all.

Though classifications vary across countries, homelessness happens because people cannot access the housing and supports they need. This can be the result of economic and socio-structural factors, like shortage of affordable housing, extreme poverty, and discrimination; it can occur when systems of care and support fail; and it can occur in response to individual or relational factors, such as relationship violence or personal trauma. The immediate cause is often an exogenous shock, such as a health crisis, unexpected lack of employment, or abrupt housing loss. But socio-structural factors make certain people especially vulnerable, and gaps in the social safety net and homelessness services systems can extend homelessness or make it more difficult to remain housed.

Causes & Intersections

Causes & Intersections

Homelessness sits at the intersection of various economic and social stresses, which can both cause homelessness to occur and make it difficult for individuals to find and remain in housing.

Demographics

Demographics

Certain sub-populations have been shown to be more vulnerable to homelessness than others, including people from the LGBTQ+ community, people from certain ethnicities and races, people fleeing violence, and people belonging to particular age groups.

Addiction & Homelessness

Addiction & Homelessness

Addiction in its many forms, from substance use to gambling, can be both a cause and a result of homelessness. These behaviors can act as coping mechanisms, but often make it harder for people to return to housing.

Impact on Health

Impact on Health

Health and homelessness are inextricably linked. Lack of housing can trigger or exacerbate existing conditions, and health problems can restrict access to housing.

Impact on Mental Health

Impact on Mental Health

Incidences of homelessness can trigger mental health problems, and vice versa. Mental illness can also disrupt people's ability to navigate complicated processes, making it difficult for them to return to housing.

IGH Framework

IGH Framework

The IGH Framework includes a common definition of homelessness and describes the many housing situations that could fall into that definition, allowing localities to choose which they include in their definition of homelessness.

Regions

Regions

Find research, data, and best practice from all the major world regions.

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