In 1998, a study by Koegel and Schoeni of a homeless population in Los Angeles, California, reported that a significant number of homeless do not participate in government assistance programs, and the authors reported being puzzled as to why that was, with the only possible suggestion from the evidence being that transaction costs were perhaps too high.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Administration have a special Section 8 housing voucher program called VASH (Veterans Administration Supported Housing), or HUD-VASH, which gives out a certain number of Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers to elegible homeless and otherwise vulnerable US armed forces veterans.
While some homeless people are known to have community with one another, providing each other various types of support, people who are not homeless also may provide them friendship, food, relational care, and other forms of assistance. Such social supports may be done through a formal process, such as under the auspices of a non-governmental organization, religious organization, or homeless ministry, or may be done on an individual basis.
Many non-profit organizations such as Goodwill Industries maintain a mission to "provide skill development and work opportunities to people with barriers to employment", though most of these organizations are not primarily geared toward homeless individuals. Many cities also have street newspapers or magazines: publications designed to provide employment opportunity to homeless people or others in need by street sale.
While some homeless have paying jobs, some must seek other methods to make money. Begging or panhandling is one option, but is becoming increasingly illegal in many cities. Despite the stereotype, not all homeless people panhandle, and not all panhandlers are homeless.
Another option is busking: performing tricks, playing music, drawing on the sidewalk, or offering some other form of entertainment in exchange for donations. In cities whereplasmapheresis centers still exist, homeless people may generate income through frequent visits to these centers.
Homeless people have been known to commit crimes just to be sent to jail or prison for food and shelter. In police slang, this is called "three hots and a cot" referring to the three hot daily meals and a cot to sleep on given to prisoners.
Invented in 2005, in Seattle, Bumvertising, an informal system of hiring the homeless to advertise by a young entrepreneur, is providing food, money, and bottles of water to sign-holding homeless in the Northwest. Homeless advocates accuse the founder, Ben Rogovy, and the process, of exploiting the poor and take particular offense to the use of the word "bum" which is generally considered pejorative.
In October 2009, the Boston Globe carried a story on so-called cyberbegging, or Internet begging, which was reported to be a new trend worldwide.