Food Stamp Regulations and the Reserved Rights of the Homeless

May 7th 2016

Homeless Requirements

SNAP considers a person to be homeless if he has no regular, fixed place to sleep at night or if he sleeps at a homeless shelter, a halfway house, someone else's home for less than 90 days, or a place where someone does not normally sleep, such as a doorway, a bus station, under a bridge, in a hallway or at a subway station.


Sometimes, homeless people do not have valid forms of identification to enroll in SNAP normally. A government employee working for a SNAP agency can call a homeless shelter or workplace to identify someone. An identification badge for work or school also serves as an ID. A homeless person may also use a birth certificate or voter registration card as a means of identification.

Cannot Be Denied Benefits

Homeless people cannot be denied benefits simply because they do not have a permanent kitchen with which to serve meals or store food, nor can they be denied benefits when a shelter or agency serves them regular meals. Some shelters cannot take in every homeless person, plus some meals do not need to be cooked to be eaten.

Using Benefits

In addition to grocery stores and farmers markets, homeless people may use food stamps at shelters and restaurants. Sometimes, shelters may ask homeless people for a voluntary donation to eat there, but the donation cannot be more than the actual cost of the food itself. Restaurants may contract with state government agencies to give homeless people discounted meals when they use SNAP benefits to pay. SNAP caseworkers can give homeless people a special ID card to eat at restaurants that participate in the program.

Other Benefits Afforded to Homeless People

SNAP workers also assist homeless people with job placement. Healthy food through SNAP can help homeless people eat better to have strength to find and keep a job. SNAP offices can also find work training programs so homeless people can get on the right track to gainful employment. Citizens under the age of 18 who do not live with parents may also apply for benefits.


Homeless people have the same eligibility rights as everyone else under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. A lack of a permanent address or an official identification cannot prevent a homeless person from receiving food stamps. Several rules and regulations apply to the homeless with respect to the program.

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