“Houseless and Homeless Not Same Thing”

Houseless and Homeless Same?  Not exactly. 

Many think so, but they are different and overlap.   Many think that if you have a roof over your head – housed that is (shelter, rooming house, somebody’s couch) then you are not homeless.   They think you are homeless only if you live outside, on the streets.  They are wrong. 

If you don’t get the difference, think about it until you do.  Read the words of the homeless veteran below and see if anything clicks.   The old saying, “home  is where the heart is” is quite valid and true.  Just because a homeless person is in shelter or sleeping on a friend’s couch, or living in a cheap motel, doesn’t mean he or she is not still homeless. 

They may be housed and homeless at the same time.  This is a big issue and a terribly sore spot with the homeless.  To them there is a world of difference; almost fighting words!   There are homeless veterans and houseless veterans, two different levels of homeless, but don’t say that someone housed cannot be homeless.  The houseless veteran is one that sleeps in a doorway or back alley or along some creek bank somewhere.   The homeless veteran covers that and also the housed that cannot make a home out of their accomidations.


From Wikipedia:  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines the term “homeless” or “homeless individual or homeless person” as — (1) an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and (2) an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is: A) supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill); B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodations for human beings.

Definition 1) covers the unhoused homeless and 2) covers the housed homeless.  There are others, including those living in cars, campers, paid motel rooms/flop houses, rooming houses, bus terminals, transit cars, and couch surfing that kind of blur whether they are covered at all or included in C). 

Most homeless census counts do not count the homeless that are able to score time in a motel or hotel as homeless, although usually they get that brief stay for only a few days or a week.  Most homeless census counts also do not count homeless in transit (those at bus or train stations or actually in transit), even though some live in the metro transit systems for years.   The result is an undercount. 

 Comment from a Homeless Vet in Ohio on homeless and houseless:

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: homeless
One entry found for homeless.
Function: adjective
: having no home or permanent place of residence
– home·less·ness noun

 “Today, my mother and I had the “homeless” conversation for the first time ever. It was terribly brief. I had mentioned having spent the last year as a homeless veteran. She said that I have never been homeless — I was staying with [my last host] until I moved into her house.  I told her that being homeless and being houseless are not the same thing.  She said she didn’t have time to discuss it and walked away.

“Yes, there was a roof over my head and there is still a roof over my head at her house; however, it was crystal clear from the moment I was told that I could move in — both places — that I was allowed to stay for a while, transient, short term, not permanent or anything close to it. I was permitted a temporary stay in someone else’s home, permitted to “make myself at home”, but never permitted to make the home my home.

“It was clear from day one — this is temporary, it had better not last very long, or a day will arrive when my belongings are moved out for me.  My last host placed them safely covered and well hidden (from the road) on his front porch. “

(Oldtimer’s note, he was recently moved out – van loaded up and transported elsewhere by his parents – wore out his welcome – their home was not his home and he was homeless even there – housed homeless in his parent’s home.)

Maybe some people really do have to be homeless for a while to understand that houseless and homeless are not the same thing. “Houseless” and “homeless” frequently overlap, but they are not interchangeable synonyms, not at all.  No, my mother really has zero clue what spending a year without a place where I was welcome to stay permanently has done to my psyche.  “Coming back” from this might be a little easier if my family had the slightest clue where I “went”.  Yeah, I think it is going to take me a while.”

Elsewhere in his blog he says this: “Housed-homeless”, it seems like such a strange concept, but there’s probably more of us “couch surfing” veterans than anyone is counting as “officially” homeless .

He has an interesting blog.  Go visit.

Click here for All Homeless Veteran Articles


4 responses to ““Houseless and Homeless Not Same Thing”

  1. I’ve been living in all kinds of vehicles for the past 25 yrs or so. For me it was the freedom of lifestyle, not to mention the economic freedom that not paying rent/mortgage can give. I don’t consider myself homeless, just that my van is houseless(garageless?). And because my expenses are low, i live a very nice life. Reguardless of what the government thinks, vandwelling is a real alternative to the status quo.

  2. Just because you do not have a home of your own does not make you homeless, it makes you houseless. If you are living in someone else’s home you are fortunate. It means you are not living on the streets, near a trash dumpster, on a park bench, under a freeway, in a car, etc. I would imagine living a year here, 6 months there, 9 months somewhere else can be daunting physically and emotionally however, you still have a residence; access to showers to wash your body, a stove to cook your food and feed your body, and a place to lay your head, all within that residence.
    I too, had to live with others for several months with a 6 month old child and though it was not ideal-I do not smoke or drink, for example, yet we lived with an alcoholic and smoker-but we were very thankful we had a somewhere to go and never once thought of ourselves as homeless.
    The situation may not always be ideal, you may not feel comfortable in these various locations because of whom you live with, the varying types of personalities you have to contend with, lifestyles etc. but to someone like myself, who feeds the homeless in my community, I know they would not accept someone’s rendition of being “homeless” (couch surfing) to how many of them have had to live for years. They would love to be able stay in a home rather than a temporary shelter. Sleep on someone’s couch or closet rather than in a subway or simply under the night’s sky. It’s frustrating to hear someone say “I’m homeless” because they don’t have their own home. The term should be houseless

  3. Needing some help from welfare/foodstamps, as my husband is disabled and we are waiting for SSI to be approved, I went to apply. To my surprise, I was told since I live in an car (no I told her, its an RV and have been living in it for 13 years) I am homeless and will be getting $59 instead of $329, plus a bed for us in seperate shelters, meal vouchers and bus tokens. Mmmmmm can anybody say lawsuit? I have 2 queensize beds, living room full of books and photos and pillows, an office with my laptop & printer & cell phone, kitchen full of pots & pans & dishes & food, bathroom with shower, sink, toiltries. I cook a big meal at thanksgiving, put up a Christmas tree and decorate for the holidays. Oh and yeah, we raised 5 kids this way, two who are now Marines. I have a website http://www.gypsy.justicesite.org to chronicle this battle I have decided to take on to explain to San Francisco WHY they canNOT call me homeless and deny me $ (oh and check this out: when my husbands SSI comes in, this City actually thinks it is going to take out $422 from the lump sum benefit for the $59 cash and shelter bed and meal vouchers and bus tokens….for my $59, etc I have to clean streets for 24 hours a month and apply for at least 20 jobs I can document having applied for)

  4. I am a HOUSELESS veteran. NOT HOMELESS damnit. I’m 24, male, and I live in my SUV. I work two days a week making deliveries for a chinese restaurant, and make about $400 per week doing that. I use wifi from a motel/gas station parking lot off of the interstate which I use to research various things with my laptop. I also watch movies online sometimes using netflix, but sometimes I go to the theater with friends. I launder clothing at a truckstop once a week, and take showers when ever I want with my 24/7 vip gym pass, which has two lockers of mine full of clothing and toiletries. I live a simple life, but I catch myself saying things like, “call ya when I get home.” Not to create a false pretense but because in just 2 months I have apparently come to think of my car in that particular parking space, as home. I am NOT homeless. I have been offered shelter by friends, which I can afford, but I prefer not to. I await my VonnApp to go through the VA so I can get a Certificate of Eligability so I can attend a truck driving school. Soon my job will require me to live in the back of a truck, where I will STILL NOT BE HOMELESS, damnit!

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