Profiles In Homelessness

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Formation, Homelessness, Reflections | 1 comment

So you think you understand homelessness!

I did… until I discovered I didn’t! When I started reading this article I somewhat proudly congratulate myself on knowing the buzz words “sheltered and unsheltered” and “chronically homeless and transitionally homeless.” After all, I have been reading about the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance and efforts to eradicate homelessness.

The deeper I got into the article I realized I had more of a stereotypical and simplified understanding. I could not pass a quiz about the basics as presented in this article. I think I had heard of the various types of unsheltered and sheltered homelessness. But ask me to scratch the surface for an understanding of the reasons for and the uniqueness of each of these types.  I discovered that there is no one size fits all for the seven situations described in the article.

Risk a little two-minute test for yourself

  • What do I know about the common profile of people who sleep in each of these situations- on the street, in a car, in an abandoned building, on friends’ sofas, etc.
  • What are the unique dangers faced by our brothers and sisters, and they are our brothers and sisters, in each of these situations?

Having invested a bit of your time, read further to see the profile of just one of these situations. At the end were you able to say “Yes, I knew all that.” If so congratulate yourself!

Insights into why people sleep in cars and the dangers and risks they take.

Many unsheltered homeless people are on the street but in a different way. They reside in a car or another type of motor vehicle. Just because you don’t see them on the city street doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Common Reasons People Sleep in Cars.

For some homeless people, their car could be the only material item they’ve managed to save. Cars can be vital assets for homeless people because a lack of public transportation can cause transitional homelessness to become chronic. Cars also provide a form of shelter from harsh weather. Family members who don’t wish to be divided by shelter regulations might opt to stay in their cars while holding out for better options.


– Lack of space

– Limited parking

– Needing gas money

– Getting parking tickets that lead to citations

– Getting cited or arrested just for sleeping in the car

– Still somewhat vulnerable to outdoor elements including inclement weather and physical altercations

Extra credit assignment

  • Does knowing the different reasons and risks shape how you think about each person?
  • What needs to be done to accompany people out of each situation?

1 Comment

  1. Jim Claffey

    Thanks Mike, and you’re right–so much to learn. Real change calls for in-depth understanding of the issues, not superficial pieces of info. Jim