The rate of homelessness in the U.S. has increased for the first time in seven years, according to a US Department of Housing and Urban Development report released Wednesday.
[The report] that showed nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country during local tallies conducted in January. That figure is up nearly 1 percent from 2016. Of that total, 193,000 people had no access to nightly shelter and instead were staying in vehicles, tents, the streets and other places considered uninhabitable. The unsheltered figure is up by more than 9 percent compared to two years ago.
Several major cities on the West Coast have seen even higher increases, leading multiple city and county governments to declare of state of emergency.
Rents have soared beyond affordability for many lower-wage workers who until just a just few years ago could typically find a place to stay. Now, even a temporary setback can be enough to leave them out on the streets.
“A lot of people in America don’t realize they might be two checks, three checks, four checks away from being homeless,” said Thomas Butler Jr., who stays in a carefully organized tent near a freeway ramp in downtown Los Angeles.
The report is furnished to Congress and used by various agencies to assist in allocating funding to homelessness-related programs.
The homeless point-in-time survey is based on counts at shelters and on the streets. While imperfect, it attempts to represent how many people are homeless at a given time. Those who work regularly with the homeless say it is certainly an undercount, although many advocates and officials believe it correctly identifies trend lines.