Here's Why Homelessness Is Going to Get Worse in 2014

TakePart.com

While the slight decline in the total number of homeless Americans in 2013 is something to cheer about, the number of homeless kids in our country has hit an all-time high and a huge swath of Americans are still without housing, left behind by the economic recovery and a shrinking social safety net.

“The economy is recovering, but it doesn’t seem like that is trickling down,” said Nan Roman, president and chief executive of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “If you’re making minimum wage, you’re really not making enough anywhere in the country for housing.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that homelessness dropped by nearly 4 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, released in late November.

The report found that 610,000 people were homeless in January 2013. Sixty-five percent were in shelters; the rest were living outdoors, either on the street, in cars, or in tents. The 2013 figure is down 9 percent from 2007.

Some think the actual number of homeless is far greater because the HUD report does not include people “doubled up” with friends or relatives, those living short-term in motels, or those who simply evaded being counted.

A number that is not dropping is the number of homeless schoolchildren. The U.S. Department of Education found that the number of homeless kids increased by 10 percent in the 2012–13 school year over the previous year, to a record 1.2 million kids.

“The numbers are still going up,” said Eric Tars, director of human rights and children’s rights programs for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “The recession is not over for the vast majority of people living at or near poverty in this country.”

Officials in more than half of 25 large and midsize cities agree. They reported a 3 percent rise in homelessness in 2013, according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors survey in December.

Moreover, cities expect homelessness to spike in 2014 because of looming federal funding cuts in food stamps and the end of long-term unemployment benefits after Christmas, which could push those barely making ends meet into homelessness.

There are some success stories. Efforts to get the chronically homeless and veterans off the streets have made significant headway.

The number of homeless vets plummeted by 8 percent in 2013, down 24 percent from 2007, HUD said, as the government pushed to get disabled vets into permanent housing with services and to give short-term assistance to veterans undergoing hardship so they do not become homeless.

“There’s a lot of political will around veterans now,” Roman said.

Likewise, the number of chronically homeless people (defined as those without housing for at least a year or who have experienced homelessness at least four times in three years) decreased by 7 percent over the past year, a total 25 percent drop since 2007, with moves to get them into housing that offers supportive services such as mental health, drug rehabilitation, and job training.

“It shows that when you put resources in place, you can be on your way to eliminating homelessness,” Tars said. “But what’s being neglected is the overall housing crisis and housing homeless families in general.”

Advocates say more needs to be done to address high housing costs, the root cause of homelessness.

Several years of high foreclosure rates have meant millions of former home owners are now tenants, squeezing demand and boosting rents. Developers prefer to build high-end homes with bigger profit margins, while the federal government has cut its subsidized housing program for low-income people, known as Section 8.

“Housing costs are going up a lot more than incomes,” Roman said. “People are staying in shelters so they can save the first and last months’ rent.”

Homeless trends in the nation’s two largest cities where housing costs are exorbitant—New York and Los Angeles—underscore the need for affordable housing. Both cities saw big increases in their homeless populations over the past year, defying the national trend.

New York saw a 13 percent jump in its homeless population—to 64,000—in the past year, while Los Angeles saw its homeless population soar in January 2013 to 53,000, a 27 percent jump.

In Los Angeles, the large homeless population recently spurred the City Council to consider a ban on outdoor feeding of the homeless by charities because of litter and food safety concerns and to encourage them to go to shelters.

“That’s insane,” said Los Angeles homeless activist Jeff Page, known as “General Jeff” in downtown’s Skid Row, where 2,000 people bed down nightly in shelters and on sidewalks. “The shelters can’t handle the influx of people they have now.”

Activists called on the government to do more to help those stuck on the bottom rung of the country’s social ladder. One idea advocated by the National Law Center is to repurpose foreclosed, vacant homes to house homeless people.

“We think it’s absurd that there are so many homeless people and so many people-less homes,” Tars said. “Despite the economic recession, we are still the wealthiest country in the world. It’s simply unacceptable for homelessness to exist.”

Related stories on TakePart:


The 10 Worst States for Student Homelessness

The Crime of Poverty: Some Homeless People Face Arrest for Asking for Help

Not Helping: Watch a Politician Take a Sledgehammer to a Bunch of Homeless People's Carts

From Skid Row to Howard University: A Homeless Teen’s Amazing Journey

In Largest Strike Yet, Fast-Food Workers Say They Need $15 an Hour to Survive

Black Friday in the Red: Payday Loans Charge the Poor 400 Percent Interest

Original article from TakePart

View Comments (80)

Recommended for You

  • Luggage piece found on French island near possible MH370 debris

    Part of a bag was found Thursday on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion not far from plane debris which has fuelled speculation it may be from missing flight MH370. "The piece of luggage was here since yesterday but nobody really paid attention," said Johnny Begue, a member of a local…

    AFP
  • Chicago man cleared after 17 years in prison shot dead

    CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man who served 17 years in prison for murder before being cleared of the crime has been shot and killed almost three years after being released from prison, police said Wednesday.

    Associated Press
  • Family Pet-Sitter Helps Herself To Homeowner's Possessions

    DEAR ABBY: A trusted and beloved family member who takes care of my cats -- and therefore has a key to my house -- has been stealing things like cleaning supplies, knickknacks, family pictures, etc. Most of them have little monetary value. But imagine my surprise when I spotted some of my missing…

    Dear Abby
  • View

    Creeping vines, abandoned village (20 photos)

    Just a handful of people still live in a village on Shengshan Island east of Shanghai that was once home to more than 2,000 fishermen. Every day hundreds of tourists visit Houtouwan, making their way on narrow footpaths past tumbledown houses overtaken by vegetation. The remote village, on one of…

    Yahoo News
  • An American Dentist Killed Zimbabwe’s Famous Lion

    Cecil the lion, a famous black-maned resident of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, died at the hands of an American dentist, conservationists claim. “Mr. Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn't kill him,” Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said in…

    TakePart.com
  • Hidden Security Cameras Are Shocking Surprise For Daughter

    DEAR ABBY: I'm a 19-year-old woman in college who still lives with my parents. I found out something several weeks ago that's bothering me, and I need advice badly. Years ago, after a robbery, my parents installed security cameras outside our house. I knew about them because they were visible. But…

    Dear Abby
  • Taliban disavows Afghan peace talks after leader declared dead

    By Kay Johnson KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban's official spokesman disavowed peace talks with the Afghan government on Thursday, throwing fledgling efforts to negotiate an end to 14 years of war into disarray. The statement came a day after the Afghan government said that Mullah Omar, the elusive…

    Reuters
  • Colorado theater shooter's dad saw wide-eyed smirk before

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — James Holmes came home on winter break from graduate school looking haggard and making odd facial expressions, but his father didn't suspect at the time that he was descending into mental illness.

    Associated Press
  • Dashcam catches off-duty cop threatening to put 'hole in head' of driver

    Technically Incorrect: A Massachusetts driver makes a wrong turn. What happens next, all filmed on his dashcam, has led to an investigation. And yes, it's now on YouTube.

    CNET
  • Trump leads Republicans, but Democrats thump him: poll

    Bombastic US billionaire Donald Trump handily leads all fellow Republicans in the 2016 presidential race, though Hillary Clinton and other Democrats trump him in head-to-head matchups, a poll said Thursday. Trump plunged into the crowded Republican nomination battle last month, and has since…

    AFP
  • Play

    Body cam footage from Cincinnati shooting contradicts official story

    A University of Cincinnati police officer has been indicted for murder after body camera footage contradicted his official story outlining the events that led to the shooting death of unarmed Cincinnati driver Samuel Dubose.

    Reuters Videos
  • Teens' 6 days adrift verge on limits for survival at sea

    TEQUESTA, Fla. (AP) — Crews pushed the limits of an ever-expanding search zone Wednesday for two teens missing at sea and potentially nearing the boundaries of human survival.

    Associated Press
  • Killer deal: Amazon will pay you $10 to buy a $30 Google Chromecast

    Google’s little Chromecast dongle is pretty awesome. The device plugs into the HDMI port on any HDTV or monitor and instantly gives users access to movies, TV shows, videos, music, photos and more that can be streamed from any Android device. Best of all, perhaps, the Chromecast is wonderfully…

    BGR News
  • Independent media battle on in Putin's Russia

    By Timothy Heritage MOSCOW (Reuters) - Alexei Venediktov, one of Russia's most prominent journalists, does not go out without a bodyguard and does not answer mobile phone calls for fear of being tracked. Such precautions do not seem out of place in a country where at least 17 journalists have been…

    Reuters
  • Kurdish rebels attack Turkish security forces, killing 5

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish rebels have attacked Turkish security forces in two separate assaults in southeast Turkey, killing five people, officials said. One rebel was also killed.

    Associated Press
  • Internet mauls dentist accused of illegal kill of popular lion

    Technically Incorrect: Walter Palmer, a dentist in Minnesota, has his Yelp entry attacked by those not fond of his allegedly illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

    CNET
  • Play

    Custom truck built by father and son stolen in Lemoore

    A Lemoore man is on the hunt for his stolen pick-up truck. The classic custom ride holds significant sentiment to its owner, who built the truck with his late father.

    KFSN – Fresno