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Homelessness is a comprehensive social problem affecting approximately 744,000 people in the U.S. Despite consistent efforts from politicians, state and local leaders, and service providers, the number of homeless people continues to rise. Although there are some explanations in the literature to account for the increase of homelessness, the literature tends to not include the voices of the homeless themselves. The purpose of this phenomenological study, which used Maslow's hierarchy of needs as its conceptual framework, was to understand the life experiences of members of the homeless population, as perceived by four male residents of a mission in an eastern U.S. state. In depth interviews investigated the core research question of the participants' perceptions of what prevents them from living productive lives without the shelter. Follow up interviews were scheduled with each participant to verify the accuracy, context, and credibility of documented information. The process of horizonalization was used to analyze transcripts for meaning units that were then clustered into themes, sorted, and documented by alignment to the research question. After all transcribed interview protocols and the researcher's notes were analyzed, validity of the findings was improved through member checks and researcher bracketing to control bias. Data revealed that common themes of childhood abuse and mental health issues influenced shelter dependence, and that the desire for recovery kept the men from leaving. Results from this study can foster positive social change by informing therapeutic interventions that screen for and target specific underlying causes of chronic homelessness within the larger population of homeless adults. Such interventions can contribute to sustainable independence for those served as well as more efficient use of scarce program resources.