It’s Christmastime, and many of us are preparing to hunker down with family and friends, sharing food and gifts and turning up the heating as high as it will go.
But for far too many people across America, Christmas will be spent outside the safety of a warm home; with December 25 passing by in makeshift encampments where tarpaulin walls are no match for chill winds, or in vehicles parked by the side of a road.
For the third year in a row, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has reported a rise in the US homeless population, with the number of unsheltered citizens having risen by 2.7%.
The increase has been driven by a notable homelessness spike in California, where the booming tech industry has pushed the price of rent sky high, as CBS News reports.
These devastating figures are reportedly drawn from an annual count conducted in January, which saw a 16.4% hike in California’s homeless population. In the January 2018 snapshot, nearly 553,000 homeless people were counted, rising to 568,000 just one year later.
Speaking about the issue, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said:
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.
In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency.
An approximate two-thirds of the homeless population were found to be living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and other types of sheltered locations, while just over a third slept in the streets, abandoned buildings and other unsheltered places.
The lowest homelessness rates were recorded in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Dakota, while the highest were found in New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington.
Governor of California Gavin Newsom claimed the state has ramped up their efforts to address what is widely regarded to be a homelessness crisis, investing $1 billion in a bid to tackle an issue which simply should not exist in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth.
However, as reported by CBS News, Governor Newsom has also stressed the importance of the federal government stepping up and putting ‘real skin in the game’:
Federal leadership matters. Investments made during the Obama administration are proving effective and have contributed to more than a 50% drop in homelessness among veterans since 2010.
Since September this year, California has reportedly requested the federal government approve 50,000 federal housing vouchers which would help alleviate homelessness. However, the HUD has so far shown resistance to this request.
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