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RASAD Task Group Terminology


These definitions provide a common language for the RASAD Task Group in the discussions and do not reflect any particular group direction.  These definitions are from federal sources as well as common terminology used in our local communities.

  • Behavior-Based Shelter:  A facility that does not perform drug or alcohol testing as a prerequisite to allowing homeless persons to stay in the facility overnight, but rather establishes criteria of good behavior as the basis for allowing them remain in residence.  No drug or alcohol use is allowed on the shelter property or in the facility.
  • Case Management:  Matching resources and services to needs.
  • Chronic Homelessness: According to the federal definition, a person is considered chronically homeless if he/she is an unaccompanied individual with a disability who has been homeless more than one year, or four or more times in the past three years.
  • Continuum of Care: A term that is used variously to describe: 1) a system that serves the specific needs of all homeless subpopulations and ensures that financial and other resources are used in a coordinated effort to provide the full range of housing and service options needed to enable homeless persons to make the transition from the streets to stable work and living environments and to achieve as high a level of self-sufficiency as possible; 2) the local homeless services planning group in Sonoma County; and 3) HUD’s funding stream dedicated to homeless housing and services.
  • Drop-in Services: Drop-in center programs provide daytime services primarily for homeless clients, such as television, laundry facilities, showers, support groups, and service referrals, but do not provide overnight accommodations.
  • Dry Shelter:  A facility that performs drug and alcohol testing as a prerequisite to allowing homeless persons to stay in the facility overnight.  No drug or alcohol use is allowed on the shelter property or in the facility.
  • Emergency Shelter:  Any facility with overnight sleeping accommodations, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of the homeless. Maximum length of stay varies by program and facility, but typical lengths are 60-90 days.
  • Homeless Family with Children:  A family composed of the following types of homeless persons: at least one parent or guardian and one child under the age of 18; a pregnant woman; or a person in the process of securing legal custody of a person under the age of 18.
  • Homeless Person:  A youth (17 years or younger) not accompanied by an adult (18 years or older) or an adult without children, who is homeless (not imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of Congress or a State law), including the following: (1) an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence; and (2) an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is: (a) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill); (b) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or (c) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
  • Homeless Subpopulations:  Include but are not limited to the following categories of homeless persons: Veterans; elderly; severely mentally ill only, alcohol/drug addicted only, severely mentally ill and alcohol/drug addicted, fleeing domestic violence, youth, and persons with HIV/AIDS.
  • Housing First:  A program services approach where you provide housing first, and then combine that housing with supportive treatment services in the areas of mental and physical health, substance abuse, education, and employment. Housing is provided in apartments scattered throughout a community. This "scattered site" model fosters a sense of home and self-determination, and it helps speed the reintegration of clients into the community. Also known as "rapid re-housing”.
  • Permanent Shelters:  Homeless shelters that exist in the same location over a period of years, which may be opened on either a seasonal or year-round basis.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing:  Affordable housing linked to accessible mental health, substance addiction, employment, and other support services. Supportive housing provides people who are homeless for the long term with a way out of expensive emergency public services and back into their own homes and communities.   Also referred to as simply supportive housing and is contrasted to community care facilities in that supportive housing tenants do not require custodial care services whereas community care residents do need this level of care. 
  • Person with a Disability:  A person who is determined to: (1) have a physical, mental or emotional impairment that:  (a) is expected to be of long‑continued and indefinite duration; (b) substantially impedes his or her ability to live independently; and (c) is of such a nature that the ability could be improved by more suitable housing conditions; or (2) have a developmental disability as defined in section 102(7) of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (42 U.S.C. 6001-6007); or (3) be the surviving member or members of any family that had been living in an assisted unit with the deceased member of a family who had a disability at the time of his or her death.
  • Public Restroom:   A restroom or public convenience which is dedicated to public use, where during hours of operation, any person may avail him or herself of the facilities without requiring the permission of any other person or business and which can be accessed directly, not requiring entrance through another building or business.  It may or may not be available for a fee.
  • Safe HavenSafe Haven projects are designed to serve hard-to-reach homeless persons with severe mental illness who are on the streets and have been unwilling or unable to participate in supportive services. Safe Havens provide their clients with time to adjust to life off the streets and to develop a willingness to accept services so that they may eventually transition to permanent supportive housing. To be classified as a Safe Haven, projects must provide 24-hour residence for eligible persons who may reside for an unspecified duration; provide private or semi-private accommodations; limit overnight capacity to no more than 25 persons; provide low-demand services and referrals for the residents; and prohibit the use of illegal drugs in the facility. Some specific characteristics that contribute to the success of a safe haven facility include intensive and skilled outreach to this hard-to-reach population and supportive service delivery at a pace comfortable for the client.
  • Seasonal Shelters:  Homeless shelters that are intended to be occupied only during periods of the year during which weather conditions pose a heightened danger to homeless persons.  This will vary by geographic region of the country.  For Sonoma County, seasonal shelters are open during winter months, generally from November through March.  Also referred to as weather-driven or winter shelters.
  • Supportive Housing:  See “permanent supportive housing”.
  • Supportive Services:  Services provided to residents of supportive housing for the purpose of facilitating the independence of residents.  Some examples are case management, medical or psychological counseling and supervision, child care, transportation, and job training.
  • Temporary Shelters:  Homeless shelters that are established at a location for a limited time period, which are typically open on a seasonal basis.
  • Transitional Housing:  A project that is designed to provide housing and appropriate supportive services to homeless persons to facilitate movement to independent living, typically within 24 months.
  • Unsheltered:  Families and individuals whose primary nighttime residence is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings (e.g., the street, sidewalk, cars, vacant and abandoned buildings).
  • Weather-Driven Shelters:  See “seasonal shelter”.
  • Wet Shelter:  A facility that allows homeless individuals struggling with alcoholism to get off the streets by allowing them to imbibe in the shelters.  Because the insatiable need to feed one's addictions can distort a person's judgment, when given the choice between an alcohol free shelter or staying on the streets, many alcoholics choose the latter. This can be deadly. So rather than requiring sobriety as a condition for receiving shelter, some communities are moving towards a "harm reduction" model, which acknowledges that some progress is better than none, and that is preferable to reduce drinking and improve overall wellness than to try but fail to demand sobriety.  There are no wet shelters in Sonoma County.
  • Winter Shelters:  Homeless shelters that is intended to be occupied only during winter months, generally from November through March.  Also referred to as seasonal or weather-driven shelters.
  • Wrap-around Services:  Services, which consist of housing; medical and mental health services; case management; food and clothing; counseling and tutoring; and access to public agencies and resources.

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