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The Georgia Homeless in 2008

Calgary City Council discusses online hosting of video archives, and maintenance of Calgary’s 2 airplanes.

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by SS&SS

What is homelessness?

Homelessness is a difficult and complex issue. So much so, that there is even

disagreement over the definition of who is truly homeless and who is not. The

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines someone as

“homeless” if he or she:

resides in an emergency shelter or in transitional/• supportive housing for

homeless persons; or

• resides in a place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks,

abandoned buildings, encampments, and dilapidated buildings

The U.S. Department of Education uses an expanded definition that also includes

people who are:

• doubled up with family or friends due to economic condition

• living in motels and hotels for lack of other suitable housing

• migrant workers living in housing not fit for habitation

The State of Georgia, in the Act that created the State Housing Trust Fund for the

Homeless in 1988, defined homelessness as “persons and families who have no access

to or can reasonably be expected not to have access to either traditional or permanent

housing which can be considered safe, sanitary, decent, and affordable.”1

Because of the important variations in the definition of homelessness, this report

primarily uses the more narrow HUD definition, except when otherwise noted.

What is chronic homelessness?

About 25% of the homeless population experience long spells of homelessness or

have had numerous homeless episodes.2 These chronically homeless individuals

use a disproportionate share of public services and are vulnerable to continued

homelessness. HUD considers someone chronically homeless if he or she is

unaccompanied, has a disabling condition and has been homeless continuously for a

year or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.3

What is the impact of homelessness?

Homelessness has a profound impact on the individuals and families it affects

including increased health problems, increased mental health problems, difficulty

with maintaining employment, separation of families, and so on. Although we can

sympathize with people who are in difficult straits, it is fair to ask why homelessness

matters to the community at large. Homelessness affects more than just an

individual or family. It affects the whole community in a number of ways. The costs of

homelessness include:

• poor educational attainment and development among homeless children

• uninsured medical costs for a population with a high rate of disability

• public safety costs including police and jail costs for offenses such as

panhandling, loitering, or vagrancy

• sanitation and litter control in parks and public spaces where homeless people


• high cost of emergency shelters, transitional housing,

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