The Challenges of Rural and Small-Town Homelessness

June 24, 2024

Homelessness in rural and small-town areas is often known as the “invisible problem.” It is assumed that homelessness is a challenge that only urban areas face, yet rural homelessness is a growing issue that is impacting regions across the country. Identifying and addressing homelessness in rural areas is challenging because oftentimes individuals and families are scattered and hidden across a broader community.  With this, health and human service providers underestimate the magnitude of the homelessness crisis in rural areas, leaving countless individuals without support or services.

There’s a surplus of challenges that come with rural and small-town homelessness, including, but not limited to:

  • Lack of public transportation.
  • Limited job opportunities/low wages/low accessibility to jobs.
  • Lack of infrastructure, i.e. technology/broadband, healthcare.
  • Less likely to have shelter available.
  • Less housing available than in urban areas – both to purchase and to rent.
  • Landlords are often unwilling to work with families with high barrier.
  • Upwards of 50 people looking at a single unit.
  • High rates of poverty and unemployment.
  • Significant childhood poverty.
  • It comprises more families than individuals.
  • More likely to be incarcerated for sleeping outdoors.

Cultural Humility involves the ability to cultivate new ideas and ways of thinking when unique barriers are creating challenges like the ones families facing homelessness in rural areas experience. Consider what resources can be tapped into, the role that social capital plays, and the power imbalances that can be challenged. The challenges of rural homelessness are also a reminder that homelessness in general does not look a certain way and it is pertinent to meet each family where they are and value their unique lived experience.

To learn more, check out Jewell’s story. She and her family worked with Bridge of Hope while experiencing rural homelessness firsthand. Jewell’s Story | Bridge of Hope – National (

Rachelle Morgan
Director of Cultural Humility and Network Enrichment

The Challenges of Rural and Small-Town Homelessness