Answer: Transitional living programs are specifically included with the McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of homeless and are covered. But it sounds like you are raising a slightly different issue, where people are not necessarily in transitional housing due to a loss of housing, but because it may be a condition of a treatment program or probation. With that wrinkle, we’ll have to give you our standard McKinney-Vento answer to this one: it depends. (See below for full answer.)

Full Question:  What are your thoughts on transitional housing from an adult treatment program, or transitional housing that is for previously incarcerated heads of household? We usually talk around and around about the transitional programs that are attached to a treatment program. The transitional program with a priority for previously incarcerated people is kind of head scratcher. From what I can see, there are no time limits, and the program doesn’t officially call itself transitional housing, at least on its website. It is a sober living facility with many rules (no guests,…).

Traditional homeless transitional housing is easy; but it’s these programs that are transitioning people from a program or institution that cause confusion. Clarity please?

Full Answer: Transitional living programs are specifically included with the McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of homeless and are covered. But it sounds like you are raising a slightly different issue, where people are not necessarily in transitional housing due to a loss of housing, but because it may be a condition of a treatment program or probation. With that wrinkle, we’ll have to give you our standard McKinney-Vento answer to this one: it depends.

Remember, the fundamental definition of “homeless” is lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. Sometimes, a treatment program may call housing “transitional,” when it actually is adequate housing where the person can (and likely will) stay indefinitely.  That does not sound like McKinney-Vento.  In other situations, the housing is more what people think of as “halfway houses”, which are not fixed, regular and adequate. Usually, when housing is conditional in ways that are not usual (sober living, no guests, curfews) it is more likely to meet the definition of homelessness.

Another question to ask is where would the person live if not in that housing? Does the person have the means to live somewhere else, but perhaps this housing is a required step in the treatment program or the conditions of probation?  If the person is living in the housing not due to lacking an alternative, but simply because it is court-ordered or part of a treatment program, then it is unlikely a McKinney-Vento situation.  However, often the person has nowhere else to go, and if the family had to leave the transitional facility, they would end up living in a car, shelter, motel, or temporarily with others. That’s a McKinney-Vento situation.

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