Rural Homelessness

Rural homelessness has its own distinct profile.  There are unique challenges and local solutions to preventing and ending rural homelessness.

Rural homelessness has many of the same root causes as its more visible counterpart urban homelessness: poverty, inadequate housing, domestic violence, mental illness, and the invisible injuries of combat. People living in rural areas are between 1.2 and 2.3 times more likely to be poor than people living in metropolitan areas, and poor rural communities have some of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. Nearly one in five rural counties has a poverty rate of 20% or more. In addition to increased poverty rates, rural communities often have lower numbers of affordable housing units causing many individuals and families in need to live in overcrowded conditions and severely dilapidated structures. Rural households that rent a home are twice as likely to live in substandard housing as their urban counterparts. American Indians in tribal communities live in overcrowded or substandard housing at rates much higher than other Americans.

While the causes of homelessness in rural areas may be the same as those in urban areas, the solutions to homelessness need to take into account the rural landscape. Technology is not the given it has become in urban areas. Cell phones and internet access are not necessarily readily available or reliable. Transportation is major issue as individuals may live far from services. Service providers and communities need to develop creative partnerships to ensure that services are accessible to clients who are spread out and to ensure disparate resources can be pooled to improve affordable and permanent supportive housing options. It is just as important to set numeric targets and measure your results in rural areas as it is in urban areas, but counting homelessness may be more difficult in rural areas and requires a different process than what happens in big cities.

Please review the resources below to learn from communities who are leading the way on ending rural homelessness.

Using Data to Measure Results: Clallam County, Washington

Ending Rural Homelessness: Advice from Experts 

Federal Resources for Rural Communities 

Read Jennifer Ho's blog

Additional Resources

Cost of Rural Homelessness:  Rural Permanent Supportive Housing Cost Analysis

Melany Mondello, Jon Bradley, Tom Chalmers McLaughlin, and Nancy Shore May 2009 This study is the...

Rural Development

Rural Development funds help many individuals living in rural America find the tools they need...

Federal Resources for Rural Communities

The federal government is committed to providing resources and support to the 51 million Americans living...

Ending Rural Homelessness: Advice from Experts in the Field

USICH spoke with two providers, Dreama Shreve of the Appalachian Regional Coalition to End Homelessness...

Using Data to Measure Results: a Rural Community Profile

Clallam County, Washington, is located on the northernmost point of the Olympic Peninsula, three hours...

Rural Homelessness

Rural homelessness has its own distinct profile.  There are unique challenges and local solutions...