Homelessness up 12% to highest level as rents soar and pandemic aid lapses

The following article appreared in The Daily Sun on Dec 16, 2023.

By the ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — The United States experienced a dramatic 12% increase in homelessness to its highest reported level as soaring rents and a decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more Americans, federal officials said Friday.

About 653,000 people were experiencing homelessness, the most since the country began using the yearly point-in-time survey in 2007 to count the homeless population. The total in the January count represents an increase of about 70,650 homeless people compared with a year earlier.

The latest estimate also indicated that people becoming homeless for the first time were behind much of the increase, and it ended a downward trend in family homelessness that began in 2012.

“This data underscores the urgent need for support for proven solutions and strategies that help people quickly exit homelessness and that prevent homelessness in the first place,” House and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a prepared statement.

Going back to the first survey, the U.S. then made steady progress for about a decade in reducing the homeless population as the government focused particularly on increasing investments to get veterans into housing. The number of homeless people dropped from about 637,000 in 2010 to about 554,000 in 2017.

The numbers ticked up to about 580,000 in the 2020 count and held relatively steady over the next two years as Congress responded to the COVID19 pandemic with emergency rental assistance, stimulus payments, aid to states and local governments and a temporary eviction moratorium.

Jeff Olivet, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, a federal agency, said the extra assistance “held off the rise in homelessness that we are now seeing,” “While numerous factors drive homelessness, the most significant causes are the shortage of affordable homes and the high cost of housing that have left many Americans living paycheck to paycheck and one crisis away from homelessness,” Olivet said.

Within the overall rise, homelessness among individuals rose by nearly 11%, among veterans by 7.4% and among families with children by 15.5%.

People who identify as Black make up about 13% of the U.S. population but comprised 37% of all people experiencing homelessness. People who identify as Hispanic or Latino make up about 19% of the population but comprised about 33% of those experiencing homelessness. Also, more than 25% of adults experiencing homelessness were over age 54.

 

Image Credits: https://www.dailypress.com/sd-me-homeless-vehicle-20190204-story.html

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