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Housing, Health, Hunger & Help: Home

Information on shelters, food, medical and legal assistance for the homeless and housing insecure in the Greater Boston area.

City of Boston Resources

Guide Disclaimer

This Research Guide has been compiled by librarians and library staff at the Boston Public Library from community partners and online sources. Links are verified and fact-checked on a semi-annual basis, however, they may change at any time. Please contact the organizations you are interested in directly to verify that they are the right fit for you or your loved one.


Welcome to the Boston Public Library. Each BPL location is a safe space and offers a variety of services to adults, teens, children, and families, including:

  • Computers with internet access
  • Printing, scanning, and photocopying
  • Books, magazines, and newspapers
  • Activities for children
  • Classes and lectures
  • And more!

How to use this guide:

This guide contains information to help individuals and families who are housing and food insecure. Use the tabs above to navigate through the guide to resources in Boston. As always, feel free to ask your local librarian for help navigating these sources.

This guide is also an educational resource and reference guide for librarians, library staff, and folks who want to help the homeless. Materials in this guide can be printed out to be given to a patron in need.

What is Homelessness?

Homelessness may seem easy to define but many definitions rely on stereotypes. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless:

[t]here are three types of homelessness – chronic, transitional, and episodic – which can be defined as follows:

Chronic Homelessness

Persons most like the stereotyped profile of the “skid-row” homeless, who are likely to be entrenched in the shelter system and for whom shelters are more like long-term housing rather than an emergency arrangement. These individuals are likely to be older, and consist of the “hard-core unemployed”, often suffering from disabilities and substance abuse problems. Yet such persons represent a far smaller proportion of the population compared to the transitionally homeless. 

Transitional Homelessness

Transitionally homeless individuals generally enter the shelter system for only one stay and for a short period. Such persons are likely to be younger, are probably recent members of the precariously housed population and have become homeless because of some catastrophic event, and have been forced to spend a short time in a homeless shelter before making a transition into more stable housing. Over time, transitionally homeless individuals will account for the majority of persons experiencing homelessness given their higher rate of turnover. 

Episodic Homelessness

Those who frequently shuttle in and out of homelessness are known as episodically homeless. They are most likely to be young, but unlike those in transitional homelessness, episodically homeless individuals often are chronically unemployed and experience medical, mental health, and substance abuse problems.

Learn More about Homelessness