The National Academies

ACRP 03-59 [Final]

Strategies to Address Homelessness at Airports

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Research Agency: The Cadmus Group
Principal Investigator: Damon Fordham
Effective Date: 5/11/2021
Completion Date: 1/31/2023



There has been an increase in the number of homeless individuals at airports in recent years.  There are many reasons for this increase, including a reduced number of city shelters and the attractiveness of airports for homeless people due to their relative safety, transit accessibility, climate controlled shelter, and access to food and amenities.  Responses to homeless people at airports have varied.  Many airports wrestle with how to balance their primary function of serving the traveling public with dealing respectfully with people experiencing homelessness.  In addition, homeless people may have physical and mental challenges and may add potential safety and security issues for airports.  Research is needed to help airports partner with local community-based resources for developing and implementing strategies to address homelessness at airport facilities.




The objective of this research is to develop a primer and guidebook to help airport operators understand and respond to homeless people at their facility.


The primer should provide (at a minimum):

  • Overview of homelessness in the United States (e.g., definition, causation);
  • Discussion of homelessness at airports, including:
    • Factors and services (e.g., public transportation access) that attract homeless people to airports;
    • Potential impacts of homeless populations on airport operations;
    • Trends and factors affecting how airports have addressed homelessness, including community size, airport size, governance, socioeconomic factors, resource availability, evolving social perception; and
  • List of resources. 

The guidebook should include (at a minimum):

  • Guidelines for developing scalable strategies to address and mitigate homelessness at airports that consider:
    • Airport size;
    • Governance structure;
    • Resource availability (e.g., health experts, legal advocacy, social services);
    • Regional factors (e.g., community size, socioeconomics, transit services);
    • Balancing customer experience, secure and safe operations, and response to individuals experiencing homelessness;
    • Identifying partners and developing a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach,
    • Identification and implementation of appropriate intervention measures; and
    • Identifying sources for additional funding (e.g., grant programs);
  • Case study examples (both airport an relevant non-airport);
  • Strategy tracking and assessment tools; and
  • Examples of training materials specific to homelessness at airports.


The final deliverables will include:

  • Primer;
  • Guidebook;
  • Summary of Key Findings;
  • Further Recommended Research Memo;
  • Technical memorandum titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.

Status: Research is complete; Results published in ACRP Research Report 254.

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