The Pathways Into Homelessness project in Toronto interviewed 300 unaccompanied adult users of homeless shelters to identify characteristics of individuals who are homeless for the first time. The sample reflected the total population of homeless shelter users in terms of age, sex, level of use, and type of shelter. Two fifths of the sample were homeless for the first time. There were more similarities than differences between those who were homeless for the first time and those who had been homeless previously. The prevalence of psychiatric and substance use disorders and the rate of previous hospitalization did not differ between first-time homeless persons and those who had been homeless before. The two groups were distinguished by some childhood experiences related to housing. Both groups had multiple indicators of serious problems, suggesting that the need for intervention is as pressing for persons who are homeless for the first time as it is for the larger population of homeless persons.