Over Half a Million Homeless in the U.S: Is America Doing Enough to Combat the Crisis?

Olu Ojo
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Homelessness remains a critical issue in the United States. Many large and dense cities with scarce affordable housing and resources, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, are grappling with the crisis as they try to provide adequate resources and shelter for the growing homeless population.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were over 580,000 homeless people in the United States on any night in 2022. This represents a 2% increase from the previous year and a disturbing trend growing over the last decade.

The top five cities with the highest homeless populations in 2022, according to a Statista report, were Los Angeles, with over 65,111; New York City, with 61,840 homeless individuals; Seattle, over 13,000; San Jose, with 10,028; and Oakland, Berkeley, with over 9,000 homeless people.

A whopping half of America’s homeless population resides across the 50 largest U.S. cities and their nearby suburbs. Even more astounding is that 22 percent of this population is in only two municipalities- New York and Los Angeles.

Key Statistics on Homelessness in America

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) Part 1 released to Congress:

  • A staggering 60% of homeless individuals in the United States are sheltered in emergency shelters, safe havens, and transitional housing programs.
  • 40% of the homeless population had to resort to sleeping on the street, inhabiting abandoned buildings, or other inhumane locations.
  • From 2020 to 2022, the number of veterans facing homelessness decreased by 11% (4,123 fewer people), representing a major success.
  • There was a 3% increase in people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, offset by a 2% decline in people staying in sheltered locations.
  • People identifying as Black, African American, or indigenous people (such as Native Americans and Pacific Islanders) are drastically overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the general U.S. population.
  • While African Americans who identify as Black only represent 12% of the United States population, they make up a disproportionate 37% of those experiencing homelessness.

Biggest Myths about Homelessness in America

Despite its prevalence, there are many misconceptions surrounding homelessness. One of the most common misbeliefs is that being homeless is an individual’s choice or a consequence of laziness. However, many factors contribute to homelessness, including a lack of affordable housing, job loss, mental health issues, and substance abuse.

Recent research by Silver School of Social Work’s Professor Deborah K. Padgett, a leading authority on homelessness, showed that New York City policies to abate street homelessness have been unsuccessful.

According to Padgett, while well-intended, these policies increased rather than reduced alienation because they rarely consider a homeless person’s individual needs—such as pet ownership, health issues, or difficulties obtaining identification documents, among other factors. In an NYU News report, Padgett debunked the 12 Biggest Myths about Homelessness in America.

Compared to other regions of the United States, cities and states in the Midwest and South possess higher rates of issues such as mental illness, poverty, or addiction, yet surprisingly have lower levels of homelessness. Gregg Colburn, a housing expert at the University of Washington, said that “What explains regional variation is housing market conditions,”

What the Cities are doing

To address the issue, cities across the U.S. are implementing various initiatives and homelessness assistance programs. In Los Angeles, the city has invested in permanent supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with on-site services like mental health counseling and job training.

Similarly, New York City has focused on rapid re-housing programs, which provide temporary rental assistance and support services to help individuals and families quickly transition to stable housing.

Innovative solutions are also emerging in the realm of small apartment living as cities explore ways to create more affordable housing options. With the rise of micro-apartments and co-living spaces, people are turning to these economical choices for their living quarters.

In order to make use of restricted space and maintain affordability, residents rely on multi-purpose home appliances and other features that help them maximize every inch of their homes.

In addition to housing-focused solutions, cities are investing in homeless assistance programs that address the underlying causes of homelessness. Job training, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment are just a few of the services offered to help individuals regain stability and self-sufficiency.

A growing number of cities are adopting the Housing First model, which prioritizes securing permanent housing for homeless individuals without preconditions or barriers. Research has shown that this approach can be more effective in reducing homelessness, particularly among those experiencing chronic homelessness, and can save public resources by reducing the use of emergency services.

While these initiatives have shown promise in reducing homelessness, the problem persists. To create lasting change, experts argue that a multifaceted approach is needed, one that combines affordable housing, support services, and targeted policy interventions.

By debunking myths and understanding the true nature of homelessness, the United States can work towards a future where everyone can access safe, stable housing and the support they need to thrive.

Moving Forward

As homelessness continues to rise across the United States, cities must explore innovative solutions and implement new measures to combat the issue. In addition to providing access to stable housing and necessary services, experts recommend that states focus on taking preventative action, such as expanding rental assistance programs and increasing the minimum wage.

By investing in these initiatives and providing targeted assistance to those most at risk, cities can work towards a future where homelessness is no longer a reality. It is also essential that the public remains aware of the causes and consequences of homelessness and the resources available for those struggling.

Sam Tsemberis, chief executive officer at Pathways Housing First Institute, says, “What people don’t typically realize when they walk past a person who’s homeless is that this person is costing taxpayers a lot of money.” Through engaging dialogue and effective policy interventions, the United States can work towards a future where everyone has access to safe, secure housing.

This post was produced by Frenz Lifestyle Hub and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Author

  • Olu Ojo

    My name is Olu. I am a passionate entrepreneur who loves to write about Pets, Home Improvement Hacks & Products, Fitness, and Travel Lifestyle. I have two bachelor's degrees in Veterinary Medicine and Applied Accounting with a CPA designation. I currently shuffle time between completing a Master of Business Administration Degree Education, Professional Practice, and Content writing. I have freelanced lifestyle content and posts for many top authority websites like MSN, and Wealth of Geeks.

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