Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that about 554,000 are homeless, and of those about 193,000 lack shelter or some other form of short term accommodations. This is the first increase in the number of homeless in 7 years.
While the economy is very strong, and unemployment is at historical lows, homelessness in increasing. So what is causing this? Experts, as well as the HUD study, show there could be many factors. They include one or more of the following.
-Rent increasing faster than wages, especially on the West Coast.
-Drug use, including opioid crisis.
-Unemployed individuals that lack the skills needed in today’s economy.
-Lack of savings in which an estimated over 50% of most Americans have zero funds to pay a bill, or for rent, in a crisis.
There could be many other factors as well. In fact, many of the homeless in 2017 may be impacted by one or more of those reasons, such as high cost of housing, drugs, etc.
The west coast has been particularly hit hard by homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that states, including California (Los Angeles and San Francisco), state of Washington, and Oregon are being ravaged. Most people just can’t afford their own place in these Western States, and rental costs in these cities are increasing at around twice the national average.
The stats show this as well. The national average of now 554,000 people being homeless has increased “only” one percent since 2010. However the western states have had homelessness increase by 14% over the last two years. That is over 10 times the national average.
Not only are these west coast states, such as California, facing an increasing percentage of homeless people, but they also lack shelter and other accommodations. This means more people in cities such as Los Angeles as well as Seattle are living on the streets. Or maybe sleeping in cars, parks, or the now “infamous” tent cities.
Los Angeles along has more than 50,000 homeless people according to stats from HUD as well as the city, and that includes those impacted by a drug addiction. This is almost a 400% year over year increase. Out of the estimated 55,000 people in the city who are homeless, about 45,000 of them lack shelter. So they have no secure place to sleep night over night.
The 2017 report also shows municipalities are reacting to the homeless crisis. There have over 10 cities that have declared a state of emergency. They are looking to programs to help both (1) get the homeless into shelter and (2) stabilize them by providing case management and more. The next step will be long term solutions.
Possible solutions from HUD
Rapid rehousing as well as Housing First are more of the long term solutions. While not all of the 554,000 homeless people are able to move right away into a new place (as many need extensive case management first) it is the path to stability. Non-profits as well as the federal government HUD Rapid Rehousing program are some of the main tools used. They also address employment needs, including offering people the correct skills.
In addition, more affordable housing is needed, especially on the west coast. There need to be more low income apartments built, which will allow formerly homeless people to find a place they can live in without breaking the budget. Housing First also stresses this need as well.
While homeless has ticked up in 2017, the 500,000 people impacted is not insurmountable. There are solutions to slow the increases, and hopefully reverse the trend and get families back into a place to live.