BASIC FACTS ON HOMELESSNESS
How many people are homeless in Ada County?
There is no easy answer to this question and, in fact, the question itself is misleading. In most cases, homelessness is a temporary circumstance — not a permanent condition. A more appropriate measure of the magnitude of homelessness is the number of people who experience homelessness over time, not the number of “homeless people.”
Studies of homelessness are complicated by problems of definitions and methodology. Nevertheless, the most recent statewide point-in-time count, conducted January 28, 2015, identified 755 homeless men, women, and children in Ada County and 1,966 homeless men, women, and children throughout the State of Idaho. The “Homelessness in Idaho 2015 Point-In-Time Count Report” is available at
Advocates urge use of a Multiplier Effect to more accurately reflect the number of homeless in Boise/Ada County/Idaho. Boise (and Idaho) are among few entities who do not use a multiplier.
How do you define “homeless”?
According to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11301, et seq. (1994), a person is considered homeless who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence; and… has a primary night time residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations… (B) An institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or (C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.” The term “homeless individual” does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of Congress or a state law.” 42 U.S.C. § 11302(c)
The education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act includes a more comprehensive definition of homelessness. This statute states that the term ‘homeless child and youth’ (A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence… and (B) includes: (i) children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and includes children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement; (ii) children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a private or public place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings… (iii) children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, and (iv) migratory children…who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii). McKinney-Vento Act sec. 725(2); 42 U.S.C. 11435(2).
Other federal agencies, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), interpret the McKinney-Vento definition to include only those persons who are on the streets or in shelters and persons who face imminent eviction (within a week) from a private dwelling or institution and who have no subsequent residence or resources to obtain housing. This interpretation of homelessness serves large, urban communities where tens of thousands of people are literally homeless. However, it may prove problematic for those persons who are homeless in areas of the country, such as rural areas, where there are few shelters. People experiencing homelessness in these areas are less likely to live on the street or in a shelter, and more likely to live with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).
Who is homeless?
Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless, and demographic groups who are more likely to experience poverty are also more likely to experience homelessness.
The homeless include: unaccompanied men, unaccompanied women, youth aging out of foster care, families with children, victims of domestic violence, veterans, the unemployed, persons suffering from mental illness, and persons suffering from addiction disorders.
How can I help someone who is homeless?
Check out the latest Agency Updates from Coalition Organizations who report monthly on eligibility, availability and contact information for services available to homeless persons. Most local resources and service provider agencies can be found on the Resources (menu) Pages, including the Housing Hot Line, Boise School District’s Self Rescue Manual and 211 CareLIne.