Homelessness Down in U.S.

Which is very good news, but it is up in some cities—including in our Parkway—as this article from Governing Magazine reports.

An excerpt.

Homelessness is on the rise in many of America’s biggest cities as wealth concentrates in urban centers, elevating rents and squeezing supplies of affordable housing in places like Los Angeles and New York, new federal data show.

Homelessness in and around big U.S. cities increased 3 percent this year, even as the nation’s overall rate declined 2 percent, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released Thursday. Nowhere has the problem grown more acute than in the Los Angeles region, where the homeless population rose 20 percent, to more than 41,000 people. Los Angeles has the largest unsheltered population in the U.S., according to the department.

“We’re now a city of shanties,” said City Councilman Mike Bonin.

The scourge of urban homelessness shows that while broad indicators such as employment and stock indexes are on the upswing, recovering economies are pushing housing out of reach and doing little to boost the incomes of the poor. Almost 47 million people in the U.S. lived in poverty last year, 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2007, before the recession began.

Homelessness increased in New York by 11 percent from 2014, by 13 percent in Seattle and 8 percent in Chicago, data show. Major cities accounted for almost half of all homeless people in the U.S., and more than one in five were either in New York or Los Angeles, the report said.

The estimates from the “2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress” come from data collected by more than 3,000 cities and counties that do a census each year on one night during the last week in January. The figures are an imperfect snapshot. While some entities don’t count people on the street as well as those in shelters every year, the numbers are the most extensive accounting available of a fluid and often-evasive population.

Many municipalities have outlawed panhandling, sleeping in public and distributing food, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Seattle has sought to regulate encampments and declared a state of emergency along with Honolulu, which was sued after clearing such makeshift settlements.

In the western Los Angeles beach neighborhood of Venice, police at daybreak rouse homeless people from their slumber to boot them off their patches of sand and grass. Sanitation crews spray the ground with a mixture of bleach and water. Within hours, the homeless reclaim their spots, and the scene repeats itself days later.

Venice, emblematic of up-and-coming communities across the country, has changed from funky, seedy and affordable to an enclave where the median home is worth $1.4 million, according to Zillow. Police have gotten more aggressive in breaking up homeless camps, said Michael Gilliam, 59, who said he’s lacked a permanent place to live since 2003.

“There’s a lot more tensions between the business owners and the homeless here,” he said recently as city crews hauled away peoples’ belongings. “The shelters are a farce. All of these things cater to a prison mentality. I’m a survivor, dude.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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