More People Than Ever Are Living on the Street

A lack of affordable housing is resulting in a record spike in homelessness
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2023 3:00 PM CDT
More People Than Ever Are Living on the Street
Several homeless people stand next to their tents across the street from a luxury apartment building in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Back in 2019, the US homeless population jumped 2.7% from the previous year, the highest mark on record to date. This year, that mark will be obliterated, reports the Wall Street Journal. Its investigation projects an increase of 11%. Based on a survey of data from groups that help the homeless across the US, the newspaper pegs the total number at 577,000. An official estimate from the government, meant to represent a single night of homelessness in the nation, will be released later this year. One huge factor: The rising cost of housing, coupled with a winddown of COVID relief funds. "We're seeing what happens when those resources aren't available," says Donald Whitehead Jr. of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

NPR also dug into underlying problems, particularly in California, which accounts for about a third of the nation's homeless people. The story points out that more people than ever are being helped into permanent housing, and yet homeless numbers continue to surge. Sky-high rents and a lack of affordable housing play big roles, and many municipalities have zoning laws that prohibit the construction of new affordable units. Both Los Angeles on the West Coast and New York City on the East Coast have declared record levels of homelessness this year, but NPR says the general upward trend holds true nationwide.

"We are beginning to feel the full economic fallout of the COVID-19 era," is how Jamie Rife of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative puts it. That city has logged a 32% increase in homeless numbers this year, among the biggest spikes for large cities, notes the Journal. In "The State of Homelessness 2023," the National Alliance to End Homelessness points out that homelessness in America has been on the rise since 2017, a trend that is consistent among most "racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups." (More housing crisis stories.)

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