The History of Homelessness in America

The term “homelessness” was first used in America in the 1870s. In the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homelessness is referred to as the condition where people lack a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” According to the Texas Homeless Network, the 1640s “mark the earliest documented instances of unhoused people surviving in America.” Today, there are approximately half a million people facing homelessness across America. Here is a timeline of how homelessness has changed over the years and how American leaders have reacted to the issue of homelessness.