Kathryn DavisAccording to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual Point in Time report released this month, the U.S. homeless population increased for the first time since 2010.

The report showed that during counts taken in January, nearly 554,000 homeless people are living in the U.S.  That number is up nearly 1% from 2016.  Of the homeless people living in the U.S., approximately 193,000 are considered unsheltered, which means that they are living in tents, vehicles, on the streets and other places that are uninhabitable.  This figure is up by over 9 percent over the last two years.

Homeless Population Boom on West Coast

The rise in homelessness across the country is driven by a large increase in people living on the street on the West Coast.  An explosion in homelessness in this area has driven at least 10 city and county governments to declare states of emergency.

According to many homeless advocates, the main culprit behind the West Coast’s higher homeless population is the regions booming economy.   Rents continue to soar higher and have become unaffordable for low wage workers.  This has caused people to be unable to afford housing when a small setback or emergency hits.  The overall homeless population in the states of California, Oregon and Washington increased by 14% over the last two years, but the unsheltered part of that group grew by 23%.

Homelessness in Decline in Most US Regions

By contrast, HUD’s report showed a continued decline in homelessness in most other regions of the country.  While the rise in homelessness this year is alarming, nationally the overall homeless number is down 13% since 2010. In Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and the Denver area, the homeless numbers all decreased.  There was also a decrease in Hawaii, which declared a statewide homelessness emergency in 2015.

How to Help the Homeless in Huntsville, AL

If you want to donate your time or resources to help out with the homeless population around the Huntsville area, or if you are in need of help, there are some excellent organizations around town.  Downtown Rescue Mission, First Stop, and Manna House are a few resources that do great work in our city for the homeless.  In addition, if you are in need of services you can dial 2-1-1 to get connected with essential services where ever you are.

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