Poverty Awareness Month – What is Poverty?


“While Many of us view poverty in economic terms, poverty is more than a lack of money.”


In discussions surrounding homelessness, this topic is often the underlying cause. People would agree that the homeless are a straightforward illusion of poverty. Poor generally means economic or material poverty and has the characteristics of inadequate food, unable to support oneself, overwhelming debt, and lack of proper clothing. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s current definition of homelessness is someone who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. There is no one-size-fits all solution. Personalized solutions are essential to walking alongside our hurting friends and neighbors. Homeless definitions fall into three categories based on the amount of time an individual has been homeless. 

Chronic Homelessness: A person who has been homeless for more than a year or has had frequent episodes of homelessness within the last couple of years. Most frequently, they suffer from long-term health conditions such as mental illness, substance abuse disorders, or medical conditions. Lack of healthcare can also make these conditions worse. 

Episodic Homelessness:  A person who has on-and-off periods of homelessness in their life or has been homeless three times or more within the last year. Like chronic homelessness, many episodically homeless struggle with medical issues, mental illness, or substance abuse disorders. 

Transitional Homeless: A person who is homeless for a short time because of crisis or unforeseen events. They often enter shelters or temporary housing for a single stay, which is the most common type of homelessness. 

The homeless culture is not what many media outlets portray them as – simply lacking a fixed residence. The general public often views the homeless as drunks, lazy bums, living on welfare, and successful con artists. However, they are real people who often have horror stories of trauma and abandonment. In survival mode, they learn poor behaviors of lying and manipulation, which drives them into further isolation from others. Due to this isolation and past relationship hurts, the homeless population is not likely to engage in any meaningful connection without developing a trusting relationship. A better term to describe the homeless could be “relation-less” rather than homelessness. 

“Something I’ve learned about in the program is, learning to live in community. Some of us soak it up very quickly. As soon as I stepped into the community it was like they welcomed me with open arms, and it was wonderful.” Catherine, Gateway Addictions and Discipleship Program Student

Gateway Mission exists to declare and demonstrate the love of Christ and serve as a first step toward a new life for homeless men, women, and families across West Michigan. Our desire is to help every person who walks through our doors experience lasting transformation. From broken to beautiful. From lost to loved. From hopeless to hopeful. 

Stay tuned next for our next topic of “What are causes of poverty and homelessness.”


National Coalition to End Homelessness, “Types of Homelessness,” Homelessness in America.

Christopher Hedlund, More than a Homeless Shelter: A Perspective on Residential Rescue Ministry Programming Paperback

Dr. Scott Klingburg – Director of Ministry Operations – Interim