Report: Homeless crisis overwhelms major U.S. cities (videos)

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In Seattle, there is a surge in homelessness, with 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians, and along busy sidewalks, as the liberal-leaning city struggles to find solutions.

According to Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien, the problem isn’t due to a lack of jobs in the area.

“I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” O’Brien said. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to.”

The homeless problem doesn’t end in Seattle; the crisis is affecting the entire West Coast. Homelessness has become a public health risk, with several cities declaring states of emergency.

San Diego is scrubbing its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly Hepatitis A outbreak, and in Portland, organizers had to light incense during an outdoor food festival to cover up the smell of urine coming from a parking lot.

Local officials and those who serve the homeless in California, Oregon and Washington report that while homelessness along the West Coast is not new, it is getting worse. With little financial buffer in the bank, the residents of these liberal states report that a prolonged illness, lost job or family crisis can sometimes lead to living on the streets.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, official counts taken earlier this year in California, Oregon and Washington show 168,000 homeless people in the three states, 19,000 more than were counted in 2015. Rising rents are the main problem the residents face.

The Associated Press has been investigating the homeless crisis on the West Coast, which led to a set of stunning photos by AP photographer Jae Hong.

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