Definition of Chronic Homelessness

How is chronic homelessness defined?

In 2015, HUD published the Defining Chronically Homeless Final Rule clarifying the definition of chronic homelessness, which applies to all program participants admitted after January 2016.

HUD encourages CoCs to prioritize funding for projects serving households with the highest level of need, including those that may be chronically homeless. However, only projects that serve individuals and families defined as chronically homeless must document chronic status for HUD.

In order to be eligible for housing restricted to chronically homeless individuals or families under the CoC program, participants must meet the definition of chronically homeless. The definition of chronically homeless is:

  • A homeless individual with a disability as defined in section 401(9) of the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11360(9)), who:
    • Lives in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or in an emergency shelter, and
    • Has been homeless and living as described for at least 12 months* or on at least 4 separate occasions in the last 3 years, as long as the combined occasions equal at least 12 months and each break in homelessness separating the occasions included at least 7 consecutive nights of not living as described.
  • An individual who has been residing in an institutional care facility for less, including jail, substance abuse or mental health treatment facility, hospital, or other similar facility, for fewer than 90 days and met all of the criteria of this definition before entering that facility**; or
  • A family with an adult head of household (or, if there is no adult in the family, a minor head of household) who meets all of the criteria of this definition, including a family whose composition has fluctuated while the head of household has been homeless.

*A “break” in homeless is considered to be 7 or more nights.

**An individual residing in an institutional care facility does not constitute a break in homelessness.

Looking for definitions of the common CoC and ESG Program terms referenced throughout the Virtual Binders?

Virtual Binders Glossary

Did you know?

An “institutional care facility” includes:

  • Jail
  • Substance abuse treatment center
  • Mental health treatment facility
  • Hospital
  • Or other similar facility