Data and methodology

Definitions of homelessness

The federal government has several definitions of homelessness, with varying criteria for being considered “homeless,” as summarized in the table below. For example, if a family is living out of their car, they would be considered homeless under both the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and US Department of Education (ED) definitions. However, if a family lost their home and is forced to share housing with someone else, ED would consider the children to be homeless, but HUD would not.

Living situation US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) US Department of Education (ED)
Unsheltered locations (e.g. on the street, in a car, etc.) Yes, counts as “homeless” Yes
Emergency shelters and transitional housing Yes Yes
Motels and hotels No, does not count as “homeless” (except in certain specific circumstances) Yes (if there are no “alternative adequate accommodations”)
Staying with others (i.e. doubled or tripled up) No (except in certain specific circumstances) Yes (if due to “loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason”)

Chart adapted from the US Department of Health and Human Services

Official counts of homelessness

Because there are varying definitions of homelessness, there are varying counts, each with certain limitations.

Count Total number in emergency shelters or transitional housing Point in time count (a one-night count of everyone in shelters and unsheltered locations) Total number of students (ages 3-18) experiencing homelessness
# counted in Delaware 2,357 1,082 3,227
Date Jan. 1, 2016 – Dec. 31, 2016 January 31, 2018 2015-2016 school year
Criteria HUD HUD ED
Source Delaware Continuum of Care Housing Alliance Delaware US Department of Education

Number of children experiencing homelessness in Delaware

Due to these limitations, the National Center on Family Homelessness has established a methodology for estimating the number of children experiencing homelessness. It uses the US Department of Education data, because it is “the only dataset that comprehensively assesses the number of homeless children by state … public schools are the only institutions legally responsible for identifying and serving children experiencing homelessness.” This methodology is also used by the Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services and cited by Family Promise® nationally. Figures may be rounded.

  1. “[Subtract] the number of homeless children ages 3 to 5 who were enrolled in public school from the total number of homeless children enrolled in each state to find the K-12 total.”
    • 3,227 (total number of homeless children) – 30 (total ages 3-5) = 3,197
  2. “Because the most current research estimates that 51% of the total number of homeless children are under the age of 6 (Samuels, Shinn & Buckner, 2010; HUD, 2009), the ED count of K-12 homeless children [i.e., the number from Step 1] represents 49% of the total number of homeless children. … [Use] a ratio to calculate the total number of homeless children in each state … number of K-12 homeless children x 100 / 49 = total number of homeless children.”
    • 3,197 x 100/49.2 = 6,498 estimated children experiencing homelessness annually
  3. To determine the ratio of children experiencing homelessness (1 in N), the latest Census data is used.
    • 204,439 children in Delaware / 6,498 experiencing homelessness = 31.5 (1 in 31.5 children experience homelessness)


  1. To determine the average rate of children experiencing homelessness per day, the total estimated number of children experiencing homelessness per year is divided by 365 (days per year).
    • 6,498 ÷ 365 = 17.8 children becoming homeless per day, on average
  2. To determine how often per day, on average, a child becomes homeless, the average daily rate is divided by 24 (hours per day), to determine an average hourly rate. The inverse of that hourly rate is then calculated and converted to minutes by multiplying by 60 (minutes per hour).
    • 17.8 ÷ 24 = 0.74 children becoming homeless per hour, on average
    • 1 ÷ 0.74 = 1 child becoming homeless every 1.38 hours
    • 1.38 x 60 = 1 child becoming homeless every 80.8 minutes

Cost of child homelessness

People’s Emergency Center, a homelessness service and advocacy organization in Philadelphia, has created a methodology for estimating the annual cost of child homelessness. Based on 13 cost categories, this methodology calculates the total marginal cost, defined as the “additional cost of serving children who have experienced homelessness above and beyond the cost associated with addressing the needs of children who have not experienced homelessness.”

Housing affordability in Delaware

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has developed a methodology for determining housing affordability, as follows:

  1. First, the state’s Fair Market Rent must be calculated. HUD determines Fair Market Rents (FMRs) for metropolitan areas. To determine the FMR for a state, NLIHC calculates a weighted average of county’s FMR. “The weight for FMRs is the number of renter households within each county from the five-year 2012-2016 ACS.”
    • In Delaware, using HUD’s Fiscal Year 2019 FMRs (effective as of Oct. 1, 2018) for 2-bedroom apartments, the statewide weighted average is $1,142.
  2. For housing to be “affordable,” according to longstanding federal policy, it must require spending “no more than 30% of a household’s gross income” on “gross housing costs.” To calculate needed yearly wages for housing to be affordable, multiply the statewide FMR by 12 (months), then divide by 0.3.
    • $1,142 x 12 ÷ 0.3 = $45,668 needed per year to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at the statewide Delaware FMR.
  3. A full-time job is defined as working 40 hours/week and 52 weeks/year, or 2,080 hours/year. Thus, total wages/year at minimum wage is 2,080 multiplied by the state’s minimum wage. To calculate the number of minimum-wage jobs needed to afford housing, divide the amount from the previous step by the total wages/year.
    • In Delaware, minimum wage is $8.25/hour. A full-time job would earn $17,160/year. $45,668 ÷ $17,160 = 2.7 full-time minimum wage jobs.
  4. To calculate the number of hours per week needed to afford housing, multiply the number of full-time minimum-wage jobs by 40 hours/week.
    • 2.7 x 40 = 106 hours/week

Homeless voters

In Delaware, individuals without a “fixed address” can still register to vote by using the address of a “shelter, agency or another location where [they] receive [their] mail.” This analysis starts with a list of voters in Delaware whose address is one of Delaware’s homeless shelters (n=501). That list is then analyzed to determine the proportion that voted in the last general election (n=95). Given the inherent variability of data regarding people experiencing the homelessness, this proportion (95 ÷ 501 = 19%) is rounded to the nearest factor of 10 (= 20%).