Top 15 Slang For Homeless – Meaning & Usage

The world of street culture and homelessness has its own language, filled with unique terms and expressions that can be both eye-opening and heartwrenching. In this listicle, we’ve gathered some of the most common and powerful slang used by those experiencing homelessness. Join us as we shed light on this often overlooked aspect of society and gain a deeper understanding of the struggles faced by many in our communities.

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1. Hobo

A hobo is a person who travels from place to place, often by hopping on freight trains, and lives a transient lifestyle. The term “hobo” is often associated with someone who is homeless and relies on odd jobs or begging for survival.

  • For example, a person might say, “He’s been living as a hobo for years, never staying in one place for too long.”
  • In a discussion about the Great Depression, someone might mention, “Many people became hobos during that time, searching for work and a better life.”
  • A traveler might share their experience, “I decided to embrace the hobo lifestyle and explore the country by train.”

2. Itinerant

An itinerant is a person who travels from place to place, often for work or to pursue a specific lifestyle. While not necessarily homeless, the term can be associated with individuals who do not have a permanent residence.

  • For instance, a person might say, “He’s an itinerant worker, moving from town to town for job opportunities.”
  • In a discussion about van life, someone might mention, “Many people choose an itinerant lifestyle, living in their vehicles and traveling the country.”
  • A digital nomad might describe their lifestyle as itinerant, saying, “I work remotely and travel the world, never staying in one place for too long.”

3. Tramp

A tramp is a person who lives a transient lifestyle, often moving from place to place without a permanent residence. The term “tramp” can be associated with someone who is homeless and relies on begging or odd jobs for survival.

  • For example, a person might say, “He’s been living as a tramp since he lost his job, never knowing where he’ll sleep each night.”
  • In a discussion about urban poverty, someone might mention, “Cities often have resources available for tramps, such as shelters and soup kitchens.”
  • A social worker might use the term tramp when referring to individuals experiencing homelessness, saying, “Our organization provides support and resources for tramps in need.”

4. Bum

A bum is a person who does not have a permanent residence and often relies on others or public resources for survival. The term “bum” can be considered derogatory and demeaning, so it is important to use it with caution.

  • For instance, a person might say, “He’s just a lazy bum, never wanting to work or contribute.”
  • In a discussion about poverty, someone might mention, “We need to address the root causes of homelessness and help those who are labeled as bums.”
  • A social worker might use the term bum when describing the population they serve, saying, “Our organization provides assistance to individuals who are often labeled as bums by society.”

5. Drifter

A drifter is a person who moves from place to place without a specific destination or purpose. While not necessarily homeless, the term can be associated with individuals who do not have a permanent residence.

  • For example, a person might say, “He’s always been a drifter, never settling down in one place for too long.”
  • In a discussion about alternative lifestyles, someone might mention, “Many drifters choose to live in vans or RVs, embracing a minimalist and nomadic lifestyle.”
  • A traveler might describe their experiences as drifting, saying, “I love being a drifter and exploring new places, never knowing where I’ll end up next.”

6. Nomad

A nomad refers to a person who lives a transient lifestyle, often moving from place to place without a permanent home. The term is sometimes used to describe individuals who choose this lifestyle willingly, while others may be forced into it due to circumstances.

  • For example, “He’s been living as a nomad, traveling from city to city for the past year.”
  • In a discussion about alternative lifestyles, someone might say, “I admire the freedom of being a nomad, but it’s not for everyone.”
  • A travel blogger might write, “Join me as I explore the world as a digital nomad, working remotely while experiencing different cultures.”

7. Bag person

This term is used to describe a homeless person who carries their belongings in bags or other makeshift containers. It is often used in a derogatory manner and can be considered offensive.

  • For instance, “I saw a bag person rummaging through the trash for food.”
  • In a conversation about homelessness, someone might ask, “What can we do to help bag ladies and men escape poverty?”
  • A news article might report, “The city has seen an increase in the number of bag people living on the streets.”

8. Street person

This term refers to a person who lives on the streets, often without a permanent residence. It is a more neutral term compared to “homeless person” and is commonly used in discussions about homelessness.

  • For example, “There are many street people in this neighborhood, struggling to survive.”
  • In a conversation about social issues, someone might say, “We need to address the root causes of homelessness to help street dwellers.”
  • A documentary might feature interviews with street people, sharing their personal stories and experiences.
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9. Homeless person

This term is a straightforward and less stigmatizing way to refer to a person who lacks a permanent residence. It is commonly used in formal discussions and when discussing policies and solutions related to homelessness.

  • For instance, “The city’s shelters provide temporary housing for homeless individuals.”
  • In a conversation about social services, someone might say, “We need to prioritize support for homeless people to help them get back on their feet.”
  • A nonprofit organization might use the term when describing their mission, “Our goal is to provide resources and support to individuals experiencing homelessness.”

10. Down-and-out

This term describes a person who is extremely poor, often to the point of being homeless. It implies a state of desperation and lack of resources.

  • For example, “He used to be a successful businessman, but now he’s down-and-out and living on the streets.”
  • In a discussion about poverty, someone might say, “Many down-and-out individuals struggle to access basic necessities.”
  • A news headline might read, “Local charity provides support for the down-and-out in our community.”

11. Roofless

This term refers to someone who does not have a permanent place to live and is often used to describe individuals who are homeless.

  • For example, “He lost his job and became roofless.”
  • A person discussing homelessness might say, “We need to find solutions for the roofless population.”
  • In a news article about homelessness, the headline might read, “The struggles of the roofless in our city.”

12. Houseless

Similar to “roofless,” this term describes someone who does not have a house or a permanent place to live.

  • For instance, “She had to leave her apartment and became houseless.”
  • A social worker might use this term when discussing the needs of the houseless population.
  • In a conversation about affordable housing, someone might say, “We must address the issue of houselessness in our community.”

13. Roughneck

While not specific to homelessness, “roughneck” can be used to describe someone who is homeless and living on the streets. It often implies a sense of toughness or resilience.

  • For example, “He’s been a roughneck ever since he lost his job.”
  • In a discussion about the challenges faced by roughnecks, someone might say, “Living on the streets requires survival skills.”
  • A journalist might write, “The roughnecks of the city face daily hardships most can’t imagine.”

14. Street kid

This term is often used to refer to young individuals who are homeless and living on the streets.

  • For instance, “There are many street kids in this neighborhood.”
  • A social worker might use this term when discussing the unique challenges faced by street kids.
  • In a news report about youth homelessness, the headline might read, “The struggles of street kids in our city.”

15. Urban nomad

This term describes someone who lives a transient lifestyle, often moving from place to place without a permanent home.

  • For example, “He considers himself an urban nomad, always on the move.”
  • In a discussion about alternative lifestyles, someone might say, “Urban nomads embrace a minimalist lifestyle.”
  • A travel blogger might write, “Join me on my journey as an urban nomad, exploring different cities around the world.”