Homelessness and Families

Department of Agriculture You might wonder why the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a definition of homelessness. But the Department of Agriculture is actu- ally in charge of food programs such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). So even if it seems a bit strange, the department does need its own legal definition of who qualifies as homeless, so that those who are can qualify for extra assistance. According to USDA regulations, a person is homeless if he or she (1) has no place to sleep; (2) lives in a shelter or halfway house; (3) lives in someone

else’s home temporarily (fewer than 90 days); or (4) lives in a doorway, lobby, bus station, or some other place where people do not usually live. Note that this definition includes people who are staying with friends tempo- rarily. But whether or not that situation counts as “homeless” depends on which government agency you ask.

The SNAP program is expanding to include farmers’markets, so that people who use SNAP can get fresh, local food.

HOMELESSNESS AND THE CENSUS Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau attempts to count every person in the country. Traditionally, it has done this through a combination of forms sent through the mail and in-person visits to people’s homes. This is clearly difficult when it comes to homeless people. By definition, they have no address where they can receive their forms or visits.

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