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For first time in 7 years, there are more homeless in US

  • Wearing a Christmas headband, Grace Fernandez, who is homeless, smokes outside her tent in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. "Holidays are just so much special. It should bring us altogether as one even if we are homeless," said Fernandez. The U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development release of the 2017 homeless numbers are expected to show a dramatic increase in the number of people lacking shelter along the West Coast. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Homeless tents are dwarfed by skyscrapers as 63-year-old Vincent, who only gave his first name, sorts his belongings Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. Vincent said he thought he was bulletproof and never had to worry about getting a job as a young man. "Things ain't the way they were anymore." The U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development release of the 2017 homeless numbers are expected to show a dramatic increase in the number of people lacking shelter along the West Coast. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Homeless man Alonzo Harrison, 47, takes a nap on a bench at Pershing Square decorated with Christmas lights in the background on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Los Angeles. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region's success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • A man who identified himself just as Vincent sorts his belongings outside his tent Friday in Los Angeles. ap photo

  • A homeless man sleeps on a concrete floor outside an office building under renovation Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. The U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development release of the 2017 homeless numbers are expected to show a dramatic increase in the number of people lacking shelter along the West Coast. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Thaddeus Bell, 50, who is homeless, sits outside his tent with the street address of his childhood home in Oklahoma hanging on a fence Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Los Angeles. "I might be homeless but I'm human just like everybody else," said Bell. "I deserve a real house like any other person." The U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development release of the 2017 homeless numbers are expected to show a dramatic increase in the number of people lacking shelter along the West Coast. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • A homeless man, who declined to give his name, is dwarfed by skyscrapers Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Los Angeles. The U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development release of the 2017 homeless numbers are expected to show a dramatic increase in the number of people lacking shelter along the West Coast. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • A homeless man sits outside a high-rise building converted into apartments Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in downtown Los Angeles. The U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development release of the 2017 homeless numbers are expected to show a dramatic increase in the number of people lacking shelter along the West Coast. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Homeless people wait in line for a meal served by a community organization outside Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in Los Angeles. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region's success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Theodore Neubauer, a 78-year-old Vietnam War veteran, who is homeless, looks at his smartphone while passing time in his tent Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. "Well, there's a million-dollar view," said Neubauer on what it's like to be homeless in Los Angeles. Neubauer has a tent pitched in the heart of downtown Los Angeles and is surrounded by high-rise buildings. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region's success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Tents belonging to homeless people are covered with tarps as Los Angeles police officers on horses patrol in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region's success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • Thurman Butler Jr., 66, who is homeless, sweeps around his tent Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. "A lot of people in America don't realize they might be two checks, three checks, four checks away from being homeless," said Butler who became homeless after he was evicted from his apartment. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region's success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong



Associated Press
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

LOS ANGELES — The nation’s homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010, driven by a surge in the number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its annual Point in Time count Wednesday, a 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 and other places considered uninhabitable. The unsheltered figure is up by more than 9 percent compared to two years ago.

Increases are higher in several West Coast cities, where the explosion in homelessness has prompted at least 10 city and county governments to declare states of emergency since 2015.

City officials, homeless advocates and those living on the streets point to a main culprit: the region’s booming economy.

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.

Butler said he was in transitional housing — a type of program that prepares people for permanent homes — for a while but mostly has lived on the streets for the past couple of years.

The numbers in the report back up what many people in California, Oregon and Washington have been experiencing in their communities: encampments sprouting along freeways and rivers; local governments struggling to come up with money for long-term solutions; conflicts over whether to crack down on street camping and even feeding the homeless.

The most alarming consequence of the West Coast homeless explosion is a deadly hepatitis A outbreak that has affected Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Diego, the popular tourist destination in a county where more than 5,600 people now live on the streets or in their cars. The disease is spread through a liver-damaging virus that lives in feces.

The outbreak prompted California officials to declare a state of emergency in October.

The HUD report underscores the severity of the problem along the West Coast.

While the overall homeless population in California, Oregon and Washington grew by 14 percent over the past two years, the part of that population considered unsheltered climbed 23 percent to 108,000. That is in part due a shortage of affordable housing.

In booming Seattle, for example, the HUD report shows the unsheltered population grew by 44 percent over two years to nearly 5,500.

The homeless service area that includes most of Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis, saw its total homeless count top 55,000 people, up by more than 13,000 from 2016. Four out of every five homeless individuals there are considered unsheltered, leaving tens of thousands of people with no place to sleep other than the streets or parks.