Thursday, December 28, 2023

TIME TO TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN AND DEPORT THE INVADERS: U.S. Homeless Count Surges 12% to Highest-Recorded Level; Midsize Cities Struggle With Snowballing Homelessness

Photo: Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal
U.S. Homeless Count Surges 12% to Highest-Recorded Level:
The U.S. count of homeless people surged to the highest level on record, reaching more than 653,000 people early this year as Covid-19 pandemic-aid spending faded, new federal data show.
The increase reflects a collision of factors: rising housing costs; limited affordable housing units; the opioid epidemic; and the expired pandemic-era aid that had helped keep people in their homes, federal officials said Friday. A surge of migrants into shelters in places such as New York City, Massachusetts and Chicago also contributed to the challenge.
The data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show a 12% gain since last year, marking both the biggest increase and highest tally since the U.S. first published comparable data for 2007.
The Wall Street Journal in August reported that homeless counts surged a record amount this year, by roughly 11% based on then-available preliminary data from around the U.S.
Before this year, excluding counts hampered by the pandemic, the biggest increase was 2.7% in 2019.
“A challenging rental market with historically low vacancy rates, expiring pandemic era housing programs, and an increase in people experiencing homelessness for the first time contributed to the increase in homelessness,” said Marion McFadden, HUD’s principal deputy assistant secretary for community planning and development.
Many advocates for the homeless feared numbers would surge during the pandemic; counts instead were relatively flat. Temporary eviction moratoriums as Covid spread also helped keep vulnerable people housed, for a time.
HUD collects data from one-day counts that are taken around the U.S. early each year to estimate how many people are in shelters and on the street. The tallies are widely considered to be undercounts reflecting only a snapshot in time, but the numbers are still tracked closely to spot trends and marshal resources.
Nearly 400 homeless-aid organizations conduct the annual homeless counts, covering anything from a single large city to an entire small state. --->READ MORE HERE
Photograph by Kristen Norman for The WSJ 
Midsize Cities Struggle With Snowballing Homelessness:
Firefighters and mental-health workers set out before dawn in this west Michigan city one November morning, rousing people sleeping on the streets before businesses open and seeing if any need help.
Firefighter Mike Waldron spoke to two people sleeping above a steam vent outside a smoothie shop and returned to the group’s van.
“Businesses complain about this place all the time,” he said. “They said ‘we’ll stay here until the business opens.’ [I said] ‘I’m trying to keep you out of trouble and I’m asking you to go ahead and start getting up.’”
Midsize cities like Grand Rapids are testing out new ways to handle unhoused populations that have surged since the pandemic, as a record spike in the nation’s homelessness numbers has grown far beyond expensive coastal areas with entrenched homelessness problems.
The city’s efforts—which have been particularly wide-ranging—demonstrate the difficulties communities face trying to make a dent in reducing homelessness. The number of homeless people counted in Grand Rapids increased more quickly than the nation as a whole this year.
The number of homeless people counted in the U.S. increased 12% between 2022 and 2023, the biggest increase since the U.S. first published comparable data in 2007. A majority of places reported an increase in people sleeping outside, a finding described as startling by federal officials.
Officials and advocates for those experiencing homelessness attribute the recent rise to the end of pandemic-era protections, an influx of migrants, wide scale housing shortages—stemming in part from underbuilding after the 2008 recession—and lack of help for those experiencing mental-health problems or drug addictions.
“I think we really just came into this perfect storm,” said Courtney Myers-Keaton, who heads the local coalition to end homelessness in Grand Rapids.
The homeless counts are imperfect measures, reflecting the number of people seen experiencing homelessness on one night each year. Weather, the number of homeless shelter beds available and the number of volunteers helping to conduct the counts can all sway the final tally.
Still, the federal government considers the annual counts the most comprehensive gauge of the nation’s homeless population.
The Grand Rapids area recorded a 34% increase in homelessness since the start of the pandemic, when tents began appearing at a prominent downtown park and more people were seen sleeping on well-traversed sidewalks nearby. --->READ MORE HERE
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