The Best Cities to Live in When You're Homeless

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Though the vast majority of cities throughout the United States have a low tolerance for homelessness, a handful of cities recognize that homelessness is a problem that is better addressed through advocacy and rehabilitation, than through criminalization. In addition to simple concerns like pleasant climate, homeless individuals seeking to relocate to a more favorable city must consider what, if any, programs these cities provide toward drug rehabilitation and mental health, as drug abuse and mental instability are the two most common reasons for homelessness.

Some cities provide more services than others for homeless people.
Some cities provide more services than others for homeless people.

San Diego, California

In addition to providing a yearlong environment that is comfortable for outdoor living, the city of San Diego, also provides a number of city, state and federally-funded programs that help homeless people within its city limits. These programs include food distribution, temporary housing drug rehabilitation services, job training services and mental health treatment programs.

Aerial view of San Diego Bay, CA.
Aerial view of San Diego Bay, CA.

Berkeley, California

Like San Diego, Berkeley has a mild climate that is conducive to outdoor living throughout the year, though Berkeley tends to have lower average temperatures because it is farther north than San Diego. Additionally, Berkeley houses one of the most progressive and liberally minded universities in the United States in the University of California-Berkeley. Many programs and initiatives designed to aid the homeless population of the city have been designed by UC-Berkeley faculty and staff, such as Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency.

UC Berkeley campus entrance
UC Berkeley campus entrance

Austin, Texas

Though Austin has four distinct seasons, its wintertime average temperature rarely approaches levels that could threaten its large homeless population. Additionally, the city’s government currently houses a Homeless Resource Center, which is designed to provide services to homeless people, particularly food services and rehabilitation services. Further, many independent organizations such as Green Doors seek to provide services for the large population of homeless children who live in Austin.

Aerial view of Austin, TX.
Aerial view of Austin, TX.

Key West, Florida

Though its tropical weather is pleasant for outdoor living throughout the year, Key West had a long history of being an unwelcoming place for homeless people. Recent homeless activism and advocacy, however, have led to the development of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, which seeks to provide a number of services to help the homeless get back on their feet. Hygiene and food services, as well as mental health and job-preparation services represent just a handful of the programs provided by the FKOC.

Couple pose by southernmost buoy marker as wave crashes behind in Key West, FL.
Couple pose by southernmost buoy marker as wave crashes behind in Key West, FL.

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