Welcome to our glossary page. Here, you’ll find definitions to words and phrases commonly used in discussions about homelessness. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. However, if you have any suggestions regarding this page, please email us at

Affordable Housing

Housing for which the occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of their income for gross housing costs, including utilities. Households that pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care and are considered cost burdened by HUD. Households that pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing are considered severely cost burdened.

Area Median Income (AMI)

The average income earned by families and individuals living in a defined geographic location. If an individual earns $40K a year in a city where the median income for individuals is $80K, he/she is earning 50% of the city’s media income.

HUD uses the median income for families in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas to calculate income limits for eligibility in a variety of housing programs.*

Case Management

Social services staff who support individuals and families experiencing homelessness by helping them overcome barriers to stable housing. Case managers assist participants in identifying needs and strengths, developing goals, identifying other resources and support achieve identified goals.

Chronic Homelessness (Individuals and Families)

Chronic Homelessness (Individuals): An unaccompanied individual who has either experienced literal homeless for a year or more (including stays in temporary settings such as a hospital, jail, or prison) or has had at least four episodes of literal homelessness in three years—and who either has a disabling condition, faces substantial barriers to housing, or has a history of trauma, out-of-home placements or with foster care agencies.
Chronic Homelessness (Families): A family with an adult head of household (or if there is no adult in the family, a minor head of household) who meets all of the criteria defined above.

Continuum of Care (CoC)

A community-wide program to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with service agencies through a structured and strategic approach. CoC optimizes self-sufficiency and promotes access to a comprehensive array of programs including prevention services, street outreach efforts, emergency shelter, transitional housing and PSH.

Coordinated Entry

A centralized database that allows organizations and agencies in a defined geographic area to connect with and identify individuals experiencing homelessness in order to coordinate housing services and resources. The system further ensures that individuals have fair and equal access to assistance based on their strengths and needs.

Emergency Shelter

A housing complex that provides short-term shelter for families or individuals experiencing homelessness.

Friendship Place does not currently run an emergency shelter. We empower people experiencing homelessness to find homes, get jobs and reconnect with friends, family and the community, permanently.

Employment First

An employment services model that assumes employability, offers expedited job-readiness coaching, and helps participants obtain jobs quickly. In an employment first program, job specialists identify personal skills and strengths and prioritize job placement over training.


An individual, family or an unaccompanied youth who:

  • lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; or
  • has a primary nighttime residence that is not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements; or
  • is imminently at risk of losing their primary nighttime residence, or
  • is fleeing, or is attempting to flee a dangerous or life-threatening conditions that has either taken place within the individual’s or family’s primary nighttime residence or has made the individual or family afraid to return to their primary nighttime residence.

Housing First

A results proven model for homeless services that removes all barriers to housing such as unemployment, histories of incarceration, sobriety and mental health care, and instead prioritizes providing permanent housing. The approach also provides people experiencing homelessness with the supportive services and connections to community-based resources they need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.

Literal Homelessness

Individuals or families who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence – sleeping in cars, places not meant for habitation, emergency shelter, transitional housing, hotels paid for by a government or charitable organization or on the street.

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

Supportive case management services that place individuals and families experiencing homelessness into long-term housing and that ensure housing stabilization, self-sufficiency and better quality of life. PSH is generally accompanied by a housing/rental subsidy not exceeding 30% of income.

Point-in-Time (PIT) Count

An unduplicated one-night estimate of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. The one-night count, conducted according to HUD standards by CoCs nationwide, occurs during the last week in January of each year.

Point-in-Time Survey

An annual regional enumeration of the homeless population conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) for persons who are living on the streets, in emergency shelters, in transitional and permanent housing, or otherwise homeless and in need of help to obtain safe shelter.

Rapid Re-housing

An intervention designed to help individuals and families quickly exit homelessness and return to permanent housing. There are three core components of rapid re-housing: housing identification, rent and move-in assistance (financial), and rapid re-housing case management and services.

Scattered-Site Housing

An approach that places tenants directly into their own housing units across the community, rather than in a concentrated facility such as a shelter or a group home.

Transitional Housing 

Housing accommodation and supportive case management for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. In a transitional housing facility, residents participate in a structured program and collaborate with case managers to prepare to graduate into self-sufficient living in permanent housing.

Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool

Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) is a pre-screening survey that assesses the health and needs of a person or family experiencing literal homelessness in order to match them with the most appropriate available support and housing interventions available. The system helps to identify the most vulnerable individuals (such as those with severe medical issues) who need priority access to appropriate housing.

Family Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (F-SPDAT): A system for administering the VI-SPDAT for families experiencing literal homelessness or housing instability.

Transition Age Youth-Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (TAY-VI-SPDAT): A system for administering the VI-SPDAT for youth 24 and under who are experiencing literal homelessness or housing instability.

Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT): A survey to assess the components of a person’s or family’s life that are most likely to result in housing instability. The SPDAT informs homeless service agencies on prioritization of services and service workers on appropriate interventions to prevent homelessness.

Your Donation Helps End Homelessness!

Your support for Friendship Place has a lasting impact. In 2023, our programs ended or prevented homelessness for 4,993 people, including 1,507 children in families and 670 veterans. We empowered 167 people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to get jobs through innovative, state-of-the-art job placement services. Make a donation today in support of our work to end homelessness. Questions? Please feel free to call our fundraising office, 202.957.7834.

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