Definitions of Homelessness - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

Definitions of Homelessness

Absolute: Those living on the street with no physical shelter of their own, including those who spend their nights in emergency shelters.

At-Risk of Homelessness: A person or family that is experiencing difficulty maintaining their housing and has no alternatives for obtaining subsequent housing. Circumstances that often contribute to becoming at-risk of homelessness include: eviction, loss of income, unaffordable increase in the cost of housing, discharge from an institution without subsequent housing in place, irreparable damage or deterioration to residences, and fleeing from family violence.

Chronic: Those who have either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or have had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. In order to be considered chronically homeless, a person must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g., living on the streets) and/or in an emergency homeless shelter.

Disabling Condition: A diagnosable substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions. A disabling condition limits an individual's ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.

Episodic: A person who is homeless for less than a year and has fewer than four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

Family Unit: Those who are homeless and are: parents with minor children; adults with legal custody of children; a couple in which one person is pregnant; multi-generational families; part of an adult interdependent partnership. Many members of this group are women fleeing abusive domestic situations and struggling to re-establish independent homes for themselves and their children.

Homeless:  Those who do not have safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing to which they can return whenever they choose.

Housing First: Adopting a Housing First approach means that permanent housing is provided along with needed support services. Support services may include intensive medical, psychiatric and case management services including life skills training, landlord liaison assistance and addictions counselling. Addressing these needs through support services helps people maintain their housing over the long term.

Relative: Those living in spaces that do not meet the basic health and safety standards including protection from the elements; access to safe water and sanitation; security of tenure and personal safety; affordability; access to employment, education and health care; and the provision of minimum space to avoid overcrowding.

Wrap around supports: Wrap around supports are services that help address a homeless individual’s underlying causes of homelessness.  These support services include medical and psychiatric case management, life skills training, landlord liaison assistance, and addictions counselling.

Modified: 2012-12-11
PID: 14630