Homelessness is a complicated issue, in addition to all of the different federal programs, there are different definitions and methods for measuring the number of people experiencing homelessness. This glossary has several terms related to homelessness and homelessness services. These terms may be helpful when viewing Austin’s Homelessness Dashboard.

Adequate housing – housing that is reported by residents as not requiring any major repairs. Housing that is inadequate may have excessive mold, inadequate heating or water supply, significant damage, etc.

Affordable Housing – Any type of housing, including rental/home ownership, permanent/temporary, for-profit/non-profit, that costs less than 30% of a household’s pre-tax income.

Austin Public Health (APH) - Through partnerships, Austin Public Health provides funding to social service providers. These funds are used to provide:

  • Outreach
  • Navigation
  • Emergency shelter services 
  • Rapid Rehousing
  • Permanent Supportive Housing

Capacity – Capacity refers to the ability of people, organizations and society to manage their affairs successfully. When talking about housing and shelter, capacity refers to the amount of available units of housing of all types and shelter beds, compared to the number of people who are in need of housing or shelter.

Case Management – a collaborative and client-centered approach to service provision for persons experiencing homelessness. In this approach, a case worker assesses the needs of the client (and potentially their families) and when appropriate, arranges, coordinates and advocates for delivery and access to a range of programs and services to address the individual’s needs.

Continuum of Care (CoC) - A coalition of nonprofit organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness. They collect and report data related to homelessness and homelessness services in return for federal funding. Regions and communities across the country have their own Continuums of Care. Austin’s continuum is led by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO).

Coordinated assessment - a standardized approach to assessing a person’s current situation, the acuity of their needs and the services they currently receive and may require in the future. It takes into account the background factors that contribute to risk and resilience, changes in acuity, and the role of friends, family, caregivers, community and environmental factors.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - A federal department, which collects and reports data on homelessness to Congress. This department sets regulations around housing and shelter programs, data collections, and allocates funding to communities across the US.

Emergency Shelter – A federally funded program that provides people with a place to stay temporarily when they have no permanent residence.

Eviction prevention – refers to any strategy or program, usually geared at renters that is designed to keep individuals and families in their home and that helps them avoid homelessness.

Episodically Homeless - Refers to those who move in and out of homelessness

Hidden homelessness – refers specifically to persons who live temporarily with others without the guarantee of continued residency or immediate prospects for accessing permanent housing.

Homelessness – While it is defined in a number of ways by various federal departments, the Department of Housing and Urban Development defines homelessness as people who fit any of these criteria:

  • live in a place not meant for human habitation or shelter
  • families that have children or unaccompanied youth that have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 or more days 
  • families that have children or unaccompanied youth that have had two or more moves in the last 60 days, and who are likely to continue to be unstably housed because of disability or multiple other barriers to employment. 
  • Individuals who are likely to lose their housing within two weeks.  

Homelessness Information System (HMIS) – The data system used by Continuums of Care across the country to collect, store, and measure homelessness.

Housing – A fixed nighttime residence, where people are able to take care of their daily needs.

Housing Inventory Count – An inventory of all the housing and shelter available in Continuums of Care over a year.

Housing First – a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing. Individuals do not need to meet certain criteria such as sobriety or having a job in order to qualify. Housing is followed by provision of additional supports and services as needed.

NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) – describes when residents of a neighborhood designate a new development (e.g. shelter, affordable housing, group home) or change in occupancy of an existing development as inappropriate or unwanted for their local area.

Other Permanent Housing (OPH) - A federally funded program that provides long term housing, without the supportive services offered alongside Permanent Supportive Housing.

Permanent Housing – A type of housing that includes one of three HUD housing programs: permanent supportive housing (PSH), rapid re-housing (RRH), and other permanent housing (OPH)

Permanent Supportive/Supported Housing – Provides long-term housing and supportive services to families and people with disabilities to help keep people in housing. Supportive services may include:

  • Case management
  • Mental health care 
  • Educational services 
  • Support groups 
  • Life skills training

Point-in-Time (PiT) counts - The count of individuals experiencing homelessness on one single night of the year. The count is conducted during one single night in January by Continuum of Care volunteers across the country. The count is meant to be a snapshot of the homeless population, and is not comprehensive. For example, the count does not include people who are doubled up, staying in motels or hidden from view. 

Rapid re-housing – a federally funded program that provides short to medium term (up to 24 months) rental assistance and services to people experiencing homelessness.

Shelter – A place that provides temporary living accommodations. The Department of Housing and Urban Development funds and oversees several different shelter options including Emergency Shelter, Safe Haven, and Transitional Housing. 

Street Outreach – incredibly important work that involves moving outside the walls of the agency to engage people experiencing homelessness who may be disconnected and alienated not only from mainstream services and supports, but from the services targeting homeless persons as well.

Support Services - Include employment services, education support, parenting classes,
connections to benefits, mental healthcare, substance use treatment, and basic needs, food,
and clothing services.

Transitional housing – a federally funded program that provides a supportive, yet temporary type of accommodation that is meant to bridge the gap from homelessness to permanent housing by offering structure, supervision, support, life skills, education, etc.

Transitionally Homeless - Refers to short-term homelessness, usually less than a month. 

Unsheltered – living on the streets or in places not intended for human habitation. The term “street homeless” is also used. Individuals who live on porches, in tents, abandoned buildings, cars or bus stops are considered unsheltered.

Youth homelessness – Youth homelessness refers to young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers, and lack many of the social supports deemed necessary for the transition from childhood to adulthood.