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Displaced vs. Homeless — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Urooj Arif — Updated on March 27, 2024
Displaced persons are relocated due to external factors, often temporarily, while homelessness denotes a lack of stable, permanent shelter.
Displaced vs. Homeless — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Displaced and Homeless


Key Differences

Displaced individuals have been forced to leave their usual place of residence, often due to natural disasters, war, or development projects, whereas homeless people lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This distinction highlights the context of their situations; displacement usually has a clear external cause.
Displacement often suggests a potential for eventual return or resettlement once the causative conditions improve, while homelessness indicates a more enduring condition of not having a home, often tied to economic, social, or health-related issues.
Displaced persons might find temporary shelter in camps, shelters, or host communities, emphasizing the temporary and often externally supported nature of their situation. On the other hand, homeless individuals might live in shelters, public spaces, or places not meant for human habitation, reflecting a more permanent state of lacking a home.
While displaced individuals often maintain a hope or plan of return, relocation, or resettlement, homelessness is characterized by uncertainty and a lack of long-term solutions, pointing to systemic social and economic challenges.
The international response to displacement often involves humanitarian aid and support from governments and NGOs, aimed at addressing the immediate needs and eventual resettlement or return. In contrast, addressing homelessness may involve a mix of social services, housing support, and policy reforms aimed at systemic change, highlighting different approaches to support.

Comparison Chart


Forced to leave their usual residence due to external factors.
Lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.


Natural disasters, conflict, development projects.
Economic hardship, social issues, health problems.


Often temporary, with the potential for return or resettlement.
Can be enduring, with systemic challenges to securing housing.


Humanitarian aid, government/NGO assistance.
Social services, housing programs, policy reforms.

Living Conditions

Temporary shelters, camps, host communities.
Shelters, public spaces, inadequate housing.

Compare with Definitions


Relocated due to environmental factors.
Rising sea levels have displaced coastal communities.


Describing someone who does not have access to conventional housing.
The city's homeless population has grown, highlighting the housing crisis.


Shifted out of their customary place in society.
Technological advancements have displaced many traditional crafts.


Living in conditions that are not meant for human habitation.
Some homeless people have no choice but to live on the streets.


Removed from a job or position.
The company's reorganization displaced several long-term employees.


Without a home or permanent place of residence.
Economic downturns have left many people homeless.


Moved from their original position or place.
The flood displaced thousands, forcing them into temporary shelters.


Lacking security, stability, and the physical comfort of a home.
Homeless individuals often seek shelter in public spaces.


Caused to leave their home region or country.
War has displaced millions globally, creating large refugee populations.


Dependent on temporary housing solutions provided by the state or charities.
Shelters play a crucial role in supporting the homeless community.


To move, shift, or force from the usual place or position
Wasn't the net displaced before the puck went in?.


(of a person) without a home, and therefore typically living on the streets
Charities for the homeless
The plight of young homeless people


To force to leave a place of residence
The conflict displaced thousands of people.


Having no home or haven.


To move or shift from the usual place or position, especially to force to leave a homeland or other place of residence
Millions of refugees who were displaced by the war.


People without homes considered as a group. Often used with the.


(Chemistry) To replace (an atom, radical, ion, or molecule) in a compound during a reaction.


Lacking a permanent place of residence.
Whenever I pass the park, I see the homeless people sleeping on the benches.


(Physics) To push aside and occupy the physical space of (a volume of fluid, for example)
A boat that displaces 1,000 cubic meters of water.


Destitute of a home.


To take the place of; supplant
When coal displaced wood as the dominant energy source.


Those people who have no permanent residence, especially those who live outdoors due to poverty; usually used in the definite phrase the homeless.


To discharge from a job, office, or position.


Someone with no housing;
The homeless became a problem in the large cities


Simple past tense and past participle of displace


People who are homeless;
The homeless lived on the city streets


Without nationality or citizenship;
Stateless persons


Physically or spiritually homeless or deprived of security;
Made a living out of shepherding dispossed people from one country to another

Common Curiosities

How do homeless people find shelter?

Homeless people might use shelters, public spaces, or depend on temporary housing solutions.

What causes displacement?

Displacement is usually caused by natural disasters, conflict, or development projects.

What support do displaced people receive?

Displaced persons often receive humanitarian aid and support from governments and NGOs.

Can displaced people become homeless?

Yes, displaced individuals can become homeless if they cannot secure long-term housing.

Are homeless people always without any shelter?

Not always; some homeless individuals may have temporary shelter but lack permanent housing.

What distinguishes a displaced person from a homeless individual?

The key distinction lies in the temporary nature and external causes of displacement versus the enduring condition of homelessness.

How is homelessness defined?

Homelessness refers to lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

Is displacement always temporary?

While displacement is often temporary, it can become prolonged without solutions for return or resettlement.

Can displaced people return to their homes?

Many displaced people hope to return home once conditions allow, though it's not always possible.

What are the living conditions like for displaced people?

Displaced individuals might live in temporary shelters, camps, or with host communities.

How do natural disasters affect displacement?

Natural disasters can forcibly displace communities, necessitating emergency relocation and aid.

How do governments address homelessness?

Governments address homelessness through social services, housing programs, and policy reforms.

What are the challenges homeless people face in finding housing?

Challenges include affordability, lack of support, and systemic barriers.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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