While homelessness rates in the U.S. fell between 2007 and 2019, the problem has started to increase again. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2017, the U.S. began seeing a rise in homelessness year over year for the first time since the most devastating part of the housing crisis in 2010. On any given night during the cold month of January, over 568,000 people in this country experience the fear and discomfort of homelessness.
Homelessness also has a disproportionate effect across the nation. California, for example, saw a substantial 16% increase in 2019 over 2018. Cities also seem to struggle the most with a lack of housing for the most vulnerable. More than half of all homeless people (53%) are in the 50 largest U.S. cities.
While these numbers are alarming, they likely understate the true size of the problem. The very nature of the stigma around homelessness makes people less likely to report how insecure their housing is.
Making a Bad Situation Worse
COVID-19 has made the past year especially challenging for low-income workers. The alarming rise in joblessness, combined with soaring housing and rental prices, means that many people are suddenly unable to pay for their living situations. As a result, 2020 could see the biggest rise yet as lower-income individuals and families grapple with joblessness in the face of the pandemic.
Those who were already at risk for homelessness find themselves in a difficult position - and the potential dramatic rise in homelessness during 2020 could make already complicated housing policies even worse.