LOS ANGELES (AP) – The country's homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010, driven by an increase in the number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities on the West Coast.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development released its annual Point in Time account on Wednesday, a report that showed nearly 554,000 homeless people throughout the country during local counts in January. That figure has risen almost 1 percent since 2016.
Of that total, 193,000 people did not have access to the night shelter and instead stayed in vehicles, tents, streets and other places considered uninhabitable. The unprotected figure increased by more than 9 percent compared to two years ago.
The increases are higher in several cities on the west coast, where the explosion of homeless people has caused at least 10 city and county governments to declare states of emergency since 2015.
City officials, defenders of the homeless and those living in the streets point to a main culprit: the booming economy of the region.
Rentals have skyrocketed beyond the affordability for many low-wage workers that until just a few years ago a place to stay. Now, even a temporary setback may be enough to leave them on the streets.
"Many people in the United States do not realize they could be two checks, three checks, four homeless checks," Thomas said. Butler Jr., who stays in a carefully organized tent near a highway in downtown Los Angeles.
Butler said he was in transitional housing, a type of program that prepares people for permanent homes, for a time but who has lived mainly on the streets for the past several years.
The figures in the report support what many people in California, Oregon and Washington have been experiencing in their communities: camps sprouting along highways and rivers; local governments struggling to find money for long-term solutions; The most alarming consequence of the explosion of homeless people on the West Coast is a lethal outbreak of hepatitis A 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. The disease is transmitted through a virus harmful to the liver that lives in the feces.
The outbreak prompted California officials to declare a state of emergency in October.
The HUD report underscores the seriousness of the problem on the West Coast. 19659002] While the total population of homeless people in California, Oregon and Washington grew by 14 percent in the last two years, the portion of that population considered homeless rose 23 percent to 108,000. This is partly due to the shortage of affordable housing.
In the Seattle boom, for example, the HUD report shows that the homeless population grew by 44 percent in two years to almost 5,500.
The homeless service area that includes the majority of Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis, saw its total homeless population with more than 55,000 people, more than 13,000 since 2016. Four of each Five homeless people are considered homeless, leaving tens of thousands of people without a place to sleep apart from the streets or parks.
By comparison, while the homeless population of New York City grew to more than 76,000, only about 5 percent is considered unprotected thanks to a system that can place people in an indoor home immediately.
In the states of the west coast, the increase in homelessness has become part of everyday life.
The Monty, a bar in the Westlake neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles, does not open until 8 p.m. M. Partner and General Manager Corey Allen said that this is because a nearby shelter requires people who remain there to be in the building. Waiting until after it opens means that the streets are quieter. Allen said that homeless people have entered their bar to bathe in bathroom sinks, and employees have developed a strategy to prevent people from entering the panhandle between customers.
Theodore Neubauer, aged seventy-eight, sees the other side. Neubauer says he served in Vietnam but now lives in a tent in downtown Los Angeles. It is surrounded by thriving commercial and entertainment districts, and new apartments that are attracting many young people to the heart of the second most populous city in the country.
"Well, there is a million dollar view," he said.  Helping those like Neubauer is a political priority and political problem in Los Angeles.
Since last year, voters in the city and county of Los Angeles have approved a couple of ballot initiatives to raise $ 4,700 million next decade for affordable housing and homeless services. HUD Secretary Ben Carson praised the region for dealing with the problem and not relying solely on the federal government.
"We have to get away from the concept that only the government can solve the problem," he said. 19659002] But Mayor Eric Garcetti said insufficient federal funds for affordable housing and anti-choke programs are part of the reason for the city's current crisis.
"The crisis of homeless people in Los Angeles was not created in a vacuum and can not only be in LA," Garcetti said in a statement.
Excluding the Los Angeles region, total homelessness throughout the country would have decreased by 1.5 percent compared to 2016.
The counties of Sacramento in California, which include the state capital, and Alameda, which It is home to Oakland, it also had increases for one year of more than 1,000 homeless people.
In contrast, the HUD report showed a prolonged decrease in the lack of housing that continues in most regions. At the national level, the total number of homeless people decreased by 13 percent since 2010 and the unprotected number has decreased by 17 percent in that seven-year period, although some changes in the methodology and definitions throughout of the years can affect the comparisons.
included Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, the Denver area, and Hawaii, which declared a statewide emergency for the homeless in 2015.
The point-in-time homeless survey is based on counts in shelters and streets. While it is imperfect, try to represent how many people are homeless at any given time. Those who regularly work with homeless people say that it is certainly an insufficient count, although many advocates and officials believe that it correctly identifies the trend lines.
The report is presented to Congress and is used by government agencies as a money distribution factor for programs designed to help the homeless.
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