In 2011, more than 45 million people — a staggering 15% of the population — struggled with “food hardship” & received benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the most ever, according to a FRAC analysis of data.1

“Rising food prices, continuing high unemployment and underemployment, and flat food stamp benefit allotments all contributed to the high food hardship rate in 2011,” said FRAC President Jim Weill.

As a result, nearly one in seven Americans relied on federal aid for food to to feed themselves and their families — the majority of which are single mothers & the homeless.

Am I eligible for food stamps if I’m homeless?

Homeless persons are eligible for SNAP/Food Stamps and have all the same rights under the SNAP/Food Stamp Program as persons who are housed.

If you were unable to pay the mortgage and have found yourself on the streets, don’t you worry – you will still have access to food stamps even if you have no permanent address.

First of all, you’ll be considered homeless by SNAP if you don’t no regular place to sleep in night or sleep in one of the following places at night:

  • Half-way houses
  • Welfare hotels or congregate shelters
  • Someone else’s home for less than 90 days
  • Places where people do not normally sleep in (i.e. doorway, hallway, subway, park etc.)

Now just because you are homeless does not mean you can be denied SNAP/Food Stamps. You can receive food stamps even if you have no mailing address, no kitchen or cooking facility and even if the shelter you live in provides meals.

But how can I use food stamps if I have no place to cook my food?

You can actually use your stamps to pay for meals in soup kitchens or in homeless shelters, although these establishments must first be authorized by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and cannot force you to use your stamps even if you have them.

It will be entirely up to you if you want to use these stamps in the shelter kitchens or other restaurants that are authorized by the FNS to serve reduced-price meals to homeless people.

But how do I prove my identity?

You can do this by providing a) a photo ID, b) a school ID, c) a benefits ID, d) social services IDs like the TANF ID, e) wage stubs, f) a birth certificate or g) a voter registration card.

You can even have a caseworker call up or contact a ‘collateral contact’ or someone who knows you to confirm your identity. You don’t even need to verify where you live although it does help if you have a letter from a shelter employee which says that you are living there.

You can also deduct the cost of paying for shelter (i.e. paying to stay with a friend or paying for a motel) from your gross income – making you eligible for more food stamp benefits.

Some states may allow what is called the “homeless shelter deduction” which allows those who are homeless, but who have spent money on shelter, to deduct a flat $143 from their gross income.

For more information, it’s best that you contact your local department of human services to ask about applying for SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. UD9F9NQFUC7X


  1. Source: FRAC’s food hardship report. []