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HUD: Homelessness rises in U.S., driven by California housing crisis

Tents for the homeless line a sidewalk in Los Angeles, California on December 17
Tents for the homeless line a sidewalk in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Homelessness in the U.S. has risen for a third consecutive year, driven by a spike in California, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a new report.

QuoteHomelessness increased in California by 21,306 people, or 16.4 percent, accounting for more than the entire national increase."
— HUD statement

By the numbers: The annual HUD single-night survey, conducted in January and released Friday found homelessness increased to 567,715, up 2.7% on 2018.

  • Homelessness has decreased in 29 states and Washington, D.C. since 2018 and increased in 21 states. 
  • The number of veterans listed as homeless dropped 2.1% and homelessness among children declined 4.8%. 
  • Overall, the number of people listed as homeless has fallen nearly 11% since 2010.

Zoom in: Trump administration and Californian officials have vastly different approaches to tackling the homeless and housing affordability crises. Trump said in September he was considering a task force to address the issue in the state.

The other side: Californian lawmakers approved legislation in September to cap rent rises at 5% after inflation and expand protections to some 8 million tenants.

  • Newsom announced this month $1 billion in funding to fight homelessness, including $650 million in emergency homeless aid.

What they're saying: President Trump has been scathing in his criticism of how Californian authorities have tackled homelessness, saying the issue is "destroying" cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson continued that attack line in a statement accompanying the latest figures, saying "homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency."
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told AP California had "invested an unprecedented $1 billion" to assist communities in dealing with the issue. But he added, "we need the federal government to do its part."
"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."
— Newsom to AP

The bottom line: Per the Washington Post, California's homeless issue is related to soaring housing costs, mental health and substance abuse issues and "legal hurdles to getting people off the streets — all issues that could complicate federal officials’ ideas to stage an intervention."

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