Where Do Homeless People Live?

Updated February 12, 2018

Homeless people find many different places to live---some temporary, and others more permanent. They might take up residence in a car or van, in a homeless shelter, or at a campground. Some live on the streets or in parks. Others find shelter in abandoned buildings or in tunnels under large cities.


It is not unusual for the newly homeless to live in a vehicle while they try to find a more permanent place to stay or save up enough money to get an apartment. These individuals usually would rather live in their cars than stay in a shelter. A van or a camper makes life somewhat easier.

Groups of vehicles, set up as makeshift homeless communities, are becoming an increasing problem in many metropolitan areas, particularly in warm climates. Los Angeles has the highest number of homeless people in the United States, estimated at 73,000 in 2008. Somewhere between five and 10 per cent of them are living in vehicles.

Persons living in a vehicle usually are doing better financially than street people, and typically have jobs which allow them to maintain life in a car while still being unable to afford an apartment.


A large number of homeless stay or live in shelters. Many shelters only are open at night, so these folks must find a place to go during the day. Those with jobs are fortunate enough to be able to work all day and return to the shelter at night.

Even more fortunate are those who find room at a homeless shelter that is more like an actual home living situation, a place where they can keep their belongings and stay during the daytime as well as at night. This type of shelter is often set up as a temporary living situation for persons who apply to live there for a set amount of time while they save enough money to rent an apartment.


Some sleep on the street or behind businesses in alleys, or in parks. They might make a temporary shelter like a large cardboard box. You may see homeless people roaming the streets and holing up in public places like libraries, bus stations, or airports. A 2008 report found that over 100 individuals have set up permanent lodging at Heathrow Airport in Great Britain, where they have a nice comfortable place to live, but must always be on the alert so they don't get caught by security.


Homeless people take refuge in abandoned subway or train tunnels. Some find an abandoned building to live in. Others figure out a way to get into an unoccupied house and take the risk of sleeping there on a regular basis. Some homeless people find a free campground and may even stay there permanently.


There also are long-term and rather large tent cities, sometimes set up legally on property provided by charitable organisations. Other times tent cities are constructed on parcels of land where the residents know police will look the other way. These illegal communities often are set up near rail yards, similar to the Great Depression.

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About the Author

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.