The 'new homelessness' has drawn sustained attention from scholars over the past three decades. Definitional inconsistencies and data limitations rendered early work during this period largely speculative in nature. Thanks to conceptual, theoretical, and methodological progress, however, the research literature now provides a fuller understanding of homelessness. Contributions by sociologists and other social scientists since the mid-1990s differentiate among types of homelessness, provide credible demographic estimates, and show how being homeless affects a person's life chances and coping strategies. Agreement also exists about the main macro- and micro-level causes of homelessness. Active lines of inquiry examine public, media, and governmental responses to the problem as well as homeless people's efforts to mobilize on their own behalf. Despite the obstacles faced when studying a stigmatized population marked by high turnover and weak anchors to place, recent investigations have significantly influenced homelessness policy. A greater emphasis on prevention should further strengthen the research-policy nexus.
Keywords: causes and consequences of homelessness; disaffiliation; homeless population; housing; poverty; public policy; social exclusion.