United States homeless population rises for first time in 7 years

Alonzo Harrison 47 takes a nap on a bench at Pershing Square decorated with Christmas lights in the background on Monday Dec. 4 2017 in Los Angeles. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast and

United States homeless population rises for first time in 7 years

It's an increase of less than one percent over 2016.

The overall homeless population in west states of California, Oregon and Washington increased by 14 percent over the past two years, of which the part considered unsheltered jumped by 23 percent to approach 110,000.

"There are days when I don't want to wake up", said 30-year-old Ashley, who found herself homeless in July after being evicted and losing her job.

The report is submitted to Congress and used by government agencies as a factor in distributing money for programs created to help the homeless.

With only $2 in her pocket, Ashley now uses a free program offered through the Durham Memorial A.M.E Zion Church in Buffalo to get get food and a shower on weekdays.

In contrast, the HUD report revealed a long-running decline in homelessness continuing in most other regions.

- In Illinois, local communities reported that 10,798 persons experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017, a decrease of 6.8 percent ( or 792 persons ) since previous year and a decrease of 25 percent ( or 3,597 ) since 2010.

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The most alarming effect of the West Coast homeless explosion is a deadly hepatitis A outbreak that has affected Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Diego, the popular tourist destination in a county where more than 5,600 people now live on the streets or in their cars. Veteran homelessness decreased 9 percent ( or 85 persons ) since January 2016. "With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets".

"In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets", HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement.

The increases are due largely to spikes in the number of unsheltered homeless, according to the report.

Nationwide, about 35 percent of the homeless are living in tents, cars and on the street. Almost half of them were living unsheltered. The top four regions in the country with the highest percentage of unsheltered are in the state: Fresno/Madera (75.8 percent), Los Angeles (74.7), San Jose/Santa Clara (73.7) and Oakland/Alameda (68.6).

Of those people experiencing homelessness, 41 percent were unsheltered, meaning they were staying in a public or private place not meant to accommodate a sleeping person, like a park bench or a auto. Currently, there are 385 homeless veterans marking a 4.25 percent decrease since 2016 and an overall decrease of 68.7 percent since 2010. About 38 percent of them are unsheltered. Homelessness among families with children decreased by 15.2 percent ( or 700 ) across the state since 2016. Forty-three percent are unsheltered.

In booming Seattle, for example, the HUD report shows the unsheltered population grew by 44 percent over two years to almost 5,500.

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