Homelessness in Cambridge can be characterized in three broad categories: persons who are unsheltered, persons who are sheltered (staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing), and persons who are at risk of homelessness. The most visible form of homelessness in Cambridge is found in the unsheltered population of persons experiencing homelessness – those sleeping and living on streets, sidewalks, cars, parking garages and other places not meant for human habitation. The population of individuals and families living in shelters and transitional housing is less visible, but greater in number than those living in unsheltered situations. Additionally, there are large numbers of households at risk of homelessness or experiencing a housing crisis who may be housed but at risk of losing housing if supportive services end, others may be a paycheck or two away from losing housing due to eviction, and others might be temporarily staying with family and friends (“doubled up”).
Within these broad categories – unsheltered, sheltered, and at risk of homelessness – several subpopulations exist, each with special needs: persons fleeing domestic violence, veterans, unaccompanied youth, families with children, seniors, and persons with disabling conditions such as mental illness, chronic health conditions, substance use issues, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, etc. Homelessness manifests in many ways, and pathways into and out of homelessness or a housing crisis may be different for different populations, but universally, the solution to homelessness includes stable, safe, affordable housing.
Every winter, volunteers, homeless service providers, and staff from the Department of Human Service Programs conduct the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of persons experiencing homelessness, including persons who are unsheltered and those who are staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing. These counts are submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of a nationwide effort to count persons experiencing homelessness.
Cambridge counted 517 persons experiencing homelessness during the night between January 27 and January 28, 2016. The total count included:
- 46 families (118 persons)
- 24 in emergency shelters (59 persons)
- 22 in transitional housing (59 persons)
- 399 individuals
- 69 unsheltered
- 234 in emergency shelters
- 96 in transitional housing
You can read more detail about recent PIT counts here: