How Homelessness Differs in Rural America

Although less visible than in major cities, the housing crisis is no less severe in many rural communities, where being unhoused poses unique challenges.

1 minute read

September 26, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of small New Hampshire town with brick buildings and fall foliage.

Somersworth, New Hampshire. | Loud Canvas Media / Adobe Stock

In an interview with Olivia Weeks for Daily Yonder, Dr. Elizabeth Carpenter-Song describes her research on homelessness in rural New England, highlighting the differences between the experience of urban and rural unhoused people.

As Carpenter-Song explains, “Most research on homelessness in the U.S. had focused on urban settings. I wanted to learn more about what seemed to be very hidden experiences of homelessness in rural areas.” 

Rural homelessness is often out of sight, despite a growing housing crisis in many rural communities. “People experiencing homelessness in rural areas move across a variety of settings and may camp in the woods, sleep in cars, or double-up with friends or family for periods of time.”

Housing in rural areas is also more closely tied to transportation, or lack thereof. As people move to access more affordable housing, they often find themselves farther from jobs, schools, and basic needs.

“The main commonality between experiences of homelessness in rural and urban areas is that homelessness is a housing problem,” Carpenter-Song says. “As a society, we are now experiencing the consequences of decades of underinvestment in affordable housing.”

Friday, September 22, 2023 in The Daily Yonder

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