Opening Doors Northwest Florida

HUD's Homeless Definitions
Used by Opening Doors

When homelessness is discussed or surveyed, one issue with comparing the number of homeless is the definition of homelessness being used. Not everyone agrees on who is and isn't homeless. Opening Doors provides funding through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. As such, we primarily use their homeless definitions and categorizations.


Homeless Categorizations

from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

HUD provides a list of four Homeless definition categories and three At Risk of Homelessness definition categories.

HUD Homeless Category 1

Those that are homeless by HUD's Category 1 definition do not have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. They may be sleeping in their car, living on the street, or living in any other place that is considered not fit for human habitation. They may be in a homeless shelter or a homeless transitional housing program. This includes staying in a hotel, but only if the hotel is paid for by a charity or government program. If the hotel was paid for privately, the rules of this particular homeless definition are not met and they cannot be counted as homeless under this definition.

This definition of homelessness also takes into account stays in medical, government, or other institutions for 90 days or less. If the individual hasn't been in the institution for 91 days or more, and they did fit the Homeless Category 1 requirements before they went into the institution, they are still considered Homeless Category 1 when they are coming out of the institution.

This is also known as Street Homeless, True Homeless, or Literally Homeless. This is the definition used by the Point in Time Count that happens all across the nation, every year, counting the homeless in each area in one day.

HUD Homeless Category 2

Those that are Category 2 Homeless by HUD are considered at Imminent Risk of Homelessness due to an eviction or other situation that will lose them access to their primary nighttime residence in the next 14 days or less. Qualifying for this definition requires that the individual not have any other residence identified and lack the resources or support network need to obtain other permanent housing.

HUD Homeless Category 3

Those that are Category 3 Homeless by HUD are homeless under other federal statutes, under the age of 25, and meet a few additional HUD criteria. Practically speaking, this means fitting into one of the following situations: 

  • Under the age of 25 and...
    • Staying in someone else's home for 365 days or less, or
    • Staying in an institution.
  • Between the ages of 16 and 20 and have no relative you could stay with.
  • Under the age of 20 and have no other safe alternative living arrangements.

In addition, this category definition requires being without an occupancy agreement for permanent housing of some sort for more than 60 days, moving two or more times in the last 60 days, and expecting your lack of housing situation to continue for an extended period of time due to special needs or barriers.

Escambia and Santa Rosa counties do not have HUD funding and permission to use this definition for providing services.

HUD Homeless Category 4

Those that are Category 4 Homeless by HUD are Fleeing or Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence. In addition to fleeing domestic violence, this definition requires that they have no other residence and lack the resources and support network required to obtain permanent housing.


HUD At Risk of Homelessness Categories 1, 2, and 3

In addition to Homeless categories 1 through 4, HUD specifies three At Risk of Homelessness categories. These at-risk categories do not fall under Homeless Category 2, which is a much more imminent at risk category. They can be found in this PDF provided by HUD.