Rising rent prices in West Coast cities such as Los Angeles and Portland are outpacing incomes, causing a surge in the U.S. homeless population, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The agency released its annual Point in Time count Wednesday, revealing that the nation’s homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010.
The data shows there are nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country, which is up nearly 1 percent from 2016, but the bulk of them are concentrated in Democrat-led cities on the West Coast.
According to HUD secretary Ben Carson, the nation’s homeless numbers are actually 13 percent lower than they were in 2010, and some communities have practically eradicated homelessness among veterans.
“Where we’re not making great progress [is] in places like Los Angeles and New York City,” noted Carson in an interview with NPR (see below). “These happen to be places where the rents are going up much faster than the incomes.”
According to the report, 193,000 people had no access to nightly shelter and many were living in vehicles, tents, the streets and other places considered uninhabitable. The number of people living this way is up by more than 9 percent, compared to two years ago.
Los Angeles reported a nearly 26 percent rise in homelessness this year over 2016. According to the report, most of the increase was among individuals living outside on the street.
In many areas of the country, homelessness among veterans has become a thing of the past; national statistics show a drop of 3.2 percent. However, this is not the case in Los Angeles. In fact, it’s gotten much worse, causing the national statistics to reflect a 1.5 percent increase, despite major efforts by government and nonprofit groups to house veterans. This year, homeless veterans number 40,056, which is 46 percent lower than it was in 2010.
Carson told NPR that nonprofits, faith-based communities, and the private sector need to work alongside state and local governments to address the problem.
“We just need to move a little bit away from the concept that only the government can solve this problem by throwing more money at it,” he said, noting that much of the progress that’s been made in recent years reducing homelessness has been the result of joint efforts between nonprofits, the private sector and government.
Family homelessness was also down 5.4 percent from last year and 27 percent from what it was in 2010, the data showed. Unfortunately, it also revealed that there were approximately 58,000 families with children living outside or in shelters earlier this year. The number of unaccompanied homeless youth and children was close to 41,000; more than half didn’t have a roof over their heads.
The number of people experiencing chronic or long-term homelessness was also up 12 percent from the year before.
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