The widespread entrenchment of gaping urban inequality has aroused concern about how economic, demographic and (neoliberal) ideological globalization interacts with local conditions to shape its magnitude, manifestations and experiences. This article explores how the process of exiting homelessness is affected by an interaction of social contexts operating at multiple levels, from the global to the individual. I advance and assess a multilevel framework of exiting homelessness by combining comparison of secondary data at multiple social levels and fuzzy‐set qualitative comparative analysis of longitudinal interview data from persons using transitional housing programs in Los Angeles and Tokyo. In the two cities, individual vulnerabilities and acculturation to homelessness are superseded via different pathways out of homelessness. Pathways in Los Angeles rely on social and organizational ties amid a paucity of economic opportunities, whereas pathways in Tokyo use economic resources amid limited ties. Contrary to approaches that emphasize singular contexts driving marginality, I demonstrate differing local impacts of globalization and the important and interacting roles of the state, organizational contexts of social service delivery and cultural dimensions of social capital. This points towards the utility of a new poverty management framework for understanding interventions addressing homelessness as fragmented, contradictory and contingent upon multiple contexts.