Homelessness in the U.S. increased by 0.3 percent this year, which is the second consecutive year in which this figure has risen, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual report to Congress.
The increased number of homeless people comes at a time when unemployment is at a near 50-year low and incomes are on the rise.
“There is a critical shortage of affordable rental housing in every jurisdiction across the country,” Barbara Poppe, an official under President Barack Obama who directed federal efforts to curb homelessness, told The Wall Street Journal.
The priciest metro areas are experiencing some of the biggest hikes in homelessness. Nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives in New York or Los Angeles, where rents have risen 20 percent and 35 percent, respectively, since 2012, according to Reis Inc. In Seattle and the surrounding King County, homelessness has risen 4 percent this year. Rents in the metro area are also up 64 percent since 2012.
Many cities are wrestling with how to deal with homelessness. In recent months, several ordinances in municipalities across the country have attempted to make homelessness illegal. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that cities cannot make it illegal to sleep outside on city streets when there are not enough shelters available.