Families with children are the fastest-growing homeless population, although statistics vary between one-half million and a million homeless families in the United States on any given night. Homeless families currently account for about 40% of the homeless population. Homelessness is on the rise in industrialized nations around the world. In this entry, discussion of family homelessness is centered on the experiences of homeless families in the United States, which are somewhat generalizable to other industrialized nations but are inapplicable to nonindustrialized nations torn by wars, famine, disease, and other catastrophic conditions precedent to homelessness.

Definitions of Homelessness

Definitions of homelessness have changed over time, reflecting public opinion, social values, and economics of time and place. In the early 1900s, skid-row residents, vagrants, and people without social networks ...

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