- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found homelessness increased by 2.7% nationwide last year, with 567,715 people experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2019. That is an increase of 14,885 people since 2018.
- HUD’s report, which it presents annually to Congress, found 29 states and Washington, DC reported declines in homelessness from 2018 to 2019, while 21 states reported increases. Homelessness in California increased by 21,306 people (16.4%), which is more than the total increase of every other state combined, according to the report.
- Homelessness among veterans and families with children fell in 2019, down 2.1% and 4.8%, respectively, from 2018.
HUD used its announcement of the new homelessness figures to highlight California's contribution to the nationwide increase, a move that indicates the Trump administration is still keeping the state's issues front-of-mind. In Sept. 2019, administration officials said they were exploring a variety of policies to clear homeless people from streets, especially in cities hit hardest, using what they described as "humane policing."
"As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we're also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. "In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency. Addressing these challenges will require a broader, community-wide response that engages every level of government to compassionately house our most vulnerable fellow citizens."
Carson's view that homelessness is exacerbated by the growing cost of housing, especially in West Coast cities, is shared by various groups that advocate for the homeless and more affordable housing. In separate statements, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) said solutions are possible, leaders just lack the political will to get them done.
"It is from the safety and security of a home that services will work best for those who need them, and that people can connect with jobs, schools, churches, family and other community supports that will help them get back on their feet. So, we must do much more to get people back into housing faster," NAEH President and CEO Nan Roman said in a statement.
It's evident there is plenty of work to be done, especially in California. A report in June found a 12% increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County, adding to a problem that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has called the "most complicated issue" to address in the city. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, in a clear response to this HUD report, pledged to put $1 billion in state funds towards reducing homelessness, a move he said shows the state is treating it as a "real emergency."