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HUD Secretary on Homelessness: “It’s Everybody’s Problem”

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 12.27.54 PMOn a single night, 553,742 people experience homelessness in the U.S. According to the latest national estimate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, this number represents an increase of .7 percent since last year.

Despite the overall increase, homelessness across the country is varied. In fact, many places continue to experience a drop in homelessness—with 30 states and the District of Columbia reporting decreases in homelessness between 2016 and 2017. However, challenges in some major metropolitan areas have had a significant impact on the national numbers.

The most troubling area is the city and county of Los Angeles. Last January, the area counted a total of 55,188 individuals living in sheltered and unsheltered settings—an increase of nearly 26 percent over January 2016.

“In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets. This is not a federal problem-it’s everybody’s problem.”

The severe lack of affordable housing in the Los Angeles County is also affecting the level of veteran homelessness. Only in Los Angeles, veteran homelessness increased 64 percent since January 2016, which largely accounts for the 1.5 percent increase of veteran homelessness nationwide.

New York City is the second area of concern, with a reported 4.1 percent increase, principally among families in emergency shelters and transitional housing. To put the impact of both major metropolitan areas into perspective, if the findings were to exclude the two areas, the estimated number of veterans experiencing homelessness in other parts of the nation actually experienced a decreased by 3.1 percent since 2016.

Additionally, since 2010, veteran homelessness declined nationally by 46 percent. Regardless of the national increase, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin said he believes VA’s joint community-based homelessness efforts are working in most communities across the country.

“Despite a slight increase in overall Veteran homelessness, I am pleased that the majority of communities in the U.S. experienced declines over the past year,” said Shulkin. “VA remains committed to helping Veterans find stable housing. We will continue to identify innovative local solutions, especially in areas where higher rents have contributed to an increase in homelessness among Veterans.”

Matthew Doherty, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council of Homelessness also expressed that the reduced homelessness in the majority of the country provides confidence that the strategies and dedicated efforts in place have been working.

“At the same time,” Doherty said, “we know that some communities are facing challenges that require us to redouble our efforts across all levels of government and the public and private sectors, and we are committed to doing that work.”

Other Key Findings of HUD’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report:

•Most homeless persons (360,867) were located in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs while 192,875 persons were unsheltered.

•The number of families with children experiencing homelessness declined 5.4 percent since 2016 and 27 percent since 2010.

•Chronic or long-term homelessness among individuals increased 12.2 percent over 2016 levels though declined by 18 percent (or 19,100 persons) since 2010.

•The number of unaccompanied homeless youth and children in 2017 is estimated to be 40,799.

To view the full report, click here.

About Author: Nicole Casperson

Nicole Casperson is the Associate Editor of DS News and MReport. She graduated from Texas Tech University where she received her M.A. in Mass Communications and her B.A. in Journalism. Casperson previously worked as a graduate teaching instructor at Texas Tech's College of Media and Communications. Her thesis will be published by the International Communication Association this fall. To contact Casperson, e-mail: [email protected].

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