Homeless Network of Yakima County

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Defining Homelessness

According to the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness; there are three main categories of homelessness:

  • Unsheltered: When we refer to people who are unsheltered, we are referring to people who live on the streets, camp outdoors, or live in cars or abandoned buildings.
  • Sheltered: Some people who experience homelessness, including some people who are fleeing domestic violence, stay in emergency shelters or transitional housing; this group is referred to as sheltered.  In Yakima County, this also includes extreme weather shelters, hotel/motel vouchers, and encampments which serve as an overflow for our current lack of emergency shelter.  Permanent supportive housing is widely recognized as the solution for people facing the greatest challenges to housing stability including serious and persistent physical and behavioral health problems.
  • Couch Surfing: Many people who are experiencing a housing crisis or unable to find a place to live because of economic hardship turn to family or friends who can provide a place to stay, at least temporarily, and they may be referred to as doubled-up. Some of these arrangements can be relatively stable, but sometimes families, youth, or other individuals may be “couch surfing” from one place to another, unable to stay anywhere for more than a few days at a time.


Some agencies include couch surfers when defining homelessness and others do not. Also, left out of this equation is the large number of subsidized housing units in Yakima County for individuals with disabilities, seniors, and more.