Cities, suburban communities, and rural areas across the United States have seen a rise of groups of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness together. While people experiencing unsheltered homelessness may perceive staying in an encampment as a safer option than staying on their own in an unsheltered location or in an emergency shelter, encampments can create both real and perceived challenges for the people who stay in them as well as the broader community. As community leaders seek to develop and implement a response, they often must balance multiple, sometimes competing priorities and demands from a diverse group of stakeholders, including community residents, business owners, public health and safety officials, and advocates for disadvantaged populations—as well as the people living in the encampments.
A new paper, led by Center expert Jill Khadduri, documents what is known about homeless encampments as of late 2018, based on a review of the limited literature produced by academic and research institutions and public agencies, supplemented by interviews with key informants. A part of an ongoing research study, this review provides critical information on about the rise in encampments, characteristics of various encampments, factors that drive local responses, and the effectiveness of local strategies. The larger final research report is anticipated January 2020.