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Common definitions and terms

People with lived experience – This term refers to individuals who are or have been homeless themselves.

People without accommodation – Also referred to as rough sleepers, street homeless or unsheltered homeless persons.  This includes people sleeping, or bedded down, in the streets or other open places; people sleeping in public roofed spaces or buildings not intended for human habitation; people sleeping in their cars or other forms of transport; and individuals or households who live on the street in a regular spot, usually with some form of makeshift cover. (Definition adapted from Global Framework) [ETHOS category Homelessness / ‘Roofless’]

People living in temporary or crisis accommodation – People staying in night shelters; People living in homeless hostels and other types of temporary accommodation for homeless people; Women and children living in refuges for those fleeing domestic violence; People living in camps provided for ‘internally displaced people’; People living in camps or reception centres/temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants.  (Definition adapted from Global Framework) [ETHOS category Homelessness / ‘Houseless’]

People living in severely inadequate and/or insecure accommodation – People sharing with friends and relatives on a temporary basis; living under threat of violence; living in cheap hotels, bed and breakfasts and similar; squatting in conventional housing; living in conventional housing that is unfit for human habitation; living in trailers, caravans and tents; living in extremely overcrowded conditions; living in non-conventional buildings and temporary structures, including those living in slums/informal settlements. (Definition adapted from Global Framework) [ETHOS categories Housing Exclusion / Insecure + Inadequate]

Multiple and complex needs – This description is commonly used where an individual has been living with or managing three or more inter-related issues, such as mental ill-health, substance misuse, long term homelessness, or a physical disability.

Chronic Street Homelessness – This terminology is used in the UK based on a combination of three considerations:  the length of time someone has been sleeping on the streets; whether an individual has been street homeless more than once or on a recurring basis; whether an individual has multiple or complex needs.  In other European countries the concept, where it exists, can be based on one factor, often the length of time someone has been homeless.

Words that describe housing types or status

Housing First – ‘Housing First’ is a recovery-oriented approach to ending an individual’s homelessness that centres on quickly moving someone experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional support and services as needed. The core underlying principle is that people are better able to move forward with their lives if they are first housed.

Permanent housing – There are different definitions for this. ‘Permanent’ would ideally mean that there is no time limit on how long someone can reside in their housing or receive support. In reality, with shortages of social and other housing, some tenancies on offer are time-limited or less secure. We use the term ‘permanent’ where someone who has been homeless has been housed in suitable accommodation and they can sustain – with support or not – being housed when pitfalls arise. This could include having to move elsewhere if a tenancy ends.  Housing sustainability is not only about someone getting a roof over their head – just as important are physical and mental health, connections with others, access to meaningful activity or work, amongst other things.

Words/phrases specific to the European End Street Homelessness Campaign

Connections Week – A Connections Week is an important part of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign model.  It is a week of local action that harnesses the knowledge and commitment of those working in homelessness organisations, those sleeping on the streets and the wider local community in order to end street homelessness. Local trained volunteer teams go out on the streets and ensure that every individual is spoken to and listened to. The detailed information they gather is then used to make sure services and support reflect the needs and hopes of homeless people, in line with what they say they require.  (The methodology used during a Connections Week differs greatly from that used in formal street counts – see below).

Connections Week Survey – The survey is an assessment tool used during a Connections Week. It looks at a number of different areas of needs and risks for those who are sleeping unsheltered, and provides a point based, numerical assessment of vulnerability.   The vulnerability score of an individual is defined in three separate groupings, 0-3 being low, 4-7 being medium and 8+ as being high. Each category has a recommendation for the most likely successful intervention to address the individuals’ rough sleeping. Those scoring 8+ are unlikely to succeed in traditional supported housing due to their level of need and will likely require longer term supported housing.

Words to describe tools, concepts and processes

Street Count – A Point in Time count of unsheltered homeless persons on a single night, which is planned, co-ordinated, and carried out locally. People are verified as a rough sleeper if they are witnessed sleeping on the streets or are seen bedded down.  The street count is a way of confirming a minimum number of people sleeping unsheltered on the night in question.

By Name List (BNL) – Real-time lists of all people experiencing homelessness in a city or area which provide an understanding of the inflow into and outflow from homelessness in that area.

Functional Zero – At any point in time, the number of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered chronic homelessness will be no greater than the current monthly housing placement rate for people experiencing chronic homelessness (from Community Solutions Built for Zero).

Common Assessment Tool (CAT) – A set of questions used to understand the needs of a person experiencing homelessness and to identify the most appropriate housing or support services based on that need. An assessment tool is considered “common” if all relevant agencies and organisations in a community agree to use the same tool.

Co-ordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System (CAHP) – A CAHP consists of a set of common procedures and tools used by partner organisations and agencies within a community to identify, assess, prioritise, and match individuals experiencing homelessness with the best and most appropriate housing and services.

Vulnerability Index – ​Service Prioritisation Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) – A survey tool designed by Community Solutions and OrgCode to help identify who should be recommended for each housing and support service, moving beyond simply who is eligible for a service to who is eligible and in greatest need of that service.

Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) – An information technology system used to collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.