Rural Homelessness

About 7 percent of the homeless population lives in rural areas. Access to resources tends to be more limited in rural or mostly rural areas.

Many people think of homelessness as strictly an urban phenomenon because homeless people are greater in number and more visible in urban areas, but homelessness is also pervasive in rural areas.

Rates of homelessness among rural areas vary widely. According to the Alliance’s Geography of Homelessness report, there are approximately 14 homeless people on average for every 10,000 people in rural areas, compared with 29 homeless people out of every 10,000 in urban areas. Between 2012 and 2013, homelessness in rural areas declined by 14 percent, according to Part 1 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

The same structural factors that contribute to urban homelessness—lack of affordable housing and inadequate income—also lead to rural homelessness. Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of rural homelessness, however, is access to services. Unlike in urban areas, many rural homeless assistance systems lack the infrastructure to provide quick, comprehensive care to those experiencing homelessness. Reasons for this difference abound, including lack of available affordable housing, limited transportation methods, and the tendency for federal programs to focus on urban areas.

Additionally, rural areas tend to have higher rates of poverty, only compounding the risk of becoming and staying homeless in those areas. Due to these barriers, one of the most important strategies in ending rural homelessness is prevention.

Spotlight

Library Resources

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Report | May 6, 2010
Each community has been classified into one of five categories, ranging from completely urban to completely rural. This report analyzes various aspects of the homeless population in each category.
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Webinar | April 20, 2010
In April 2010, the Alliance presented a webinar on building political will in a rural CoC. Speakers discussed their experiences raising awareness about homelessness in the state’s rural areas.
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Interactive Tool | April 15, 2010
This interactive stacked bar chart illustrates the relative costs of permanent supportive housing and homelessness (prior to supportive housing) for both urban and rural areas in the state of Maine.
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Fact Sheets | January 17, 2010
The number of people who experience rural homelessness is unknown, but the last national count of homeless people found that 9 percent live in rural areas. The same structural factors that contribute to urban homelessness—lack of affordable housing and inadequate income—also lead to rural homelessness. One of the most important strategies in ending rural homelessness is prevention.
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Webinar | January 5, 2010
This November 13, 2009 webinar explored issues with HPRP implementation that are particular to rural areas. Specifically, program design and data collection challenges were discussed. It was the second Alliance webinar to focus on HPRP implementation issues in rural areas.
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Webinar | June 23, 2009
In June 2009, the Alliance and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) co-hosted a webinar entitled "Implementing HPRP in Rural Areas." Speakers explored the unique challenges that rural communities face as they implement their Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) plans. They also delved into new and significant opportunities to address these challenges through effective program design and collaborative strategies.