What to call home?

There’s no universal way to define homelessness. For some, it means living on the streets or in a car. For others, it’s doubled up with relatives or in a hotel. Here’s how city, school and federal officials roughly define the term and the support services to combat it.

Homeless, according to Chicago Public Schools, U.S. Department of Education, McKinney Vento Act, and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless: A student or individual who is living on the street, in a shelter, car, motel, hotel, trailer park, abandoned building or awaiting foster care. It also includes people living doubled up with family or friends, or otherwise precariously housed.

Homeless, according to the City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, and whose primary nighttime residence is a temporary shelter or institution, a place not meant as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. Does not include people living in doubled-up housing with relatives or in hotels.

Chronic Homelessness: People with a disabling condition, including chemical dependency, who have been homeless longer than one year.

Episodic Homelessness: People who experience recurrent periods of homelessness.

Transitional Homelessness: A single, short episode of homelessness, most commonly after a crisis, including job loss, economic loss and domestic violence.

Emergency shelter: Overnight shelter that provides referrals and one- or two- night stays.

Interim housing: 120-day housing program designed to place clients in permanent housing.

Permanent supportive housing: Indefinite subsidized or affordable-housing programs with no time limit; provides services for clients with mental or physical disabilities.

Permanent housing with short-term support: Housing with no time limit; provides rent subsidy for up to two years; and case management for two years, with six months of follow-up services.

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