US homelessness up 12% to highest reported level as rents soar and coronavirus pandemic aid lapses

US homelessness up 12% to highest reported level as rents soar and coronavirus pandemic aid lapses
Photo by Clay LeConey / Unsplash

653,000 people in the USA were homeless at the beginning of 2023 - twelve percent more than in the previous year. Many homeless people are without permanent accommodation for the first time in their lives.

The number of homeless people in the United States has increased dramatically. According to the authorities, 653,000 people were homeless as of January 2023, twelve percent more than at the same time last year. The federal agency US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) cited rising rents and the decline in Corona aid payments as reasons for the sharp increase.

The United States has more homeless people than ever since the country began measuring the size of the homeless population annually in 2007. Compared to January 2022, there were 70,650 more homeless people in the USA in the following year. 

The latest estimate suggests that much of the increase is due to people becoming homeless for the first time. The agency had noted a downward trend in family homelessness since 2012. This trend did not continue in 2023. Families now make up 28 percent of the country's homeless population .

A US study (PDF) recently showed that homelessness is increasing in the USA, particularly where people have to spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Cities with high levels of homelessness, such as San Francisco and Boston, are among the wealthiest in the country, while the number of homeless people in the impoverished industrial city of Detroit is relatively low. 

There is a lack of affordable housing

“This data underscores the urgent need to support proven solutions and strategies that help people quickly end homelessness and prevent homelessness in the first place,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge said of the numbers.

USICH Executive Director Jeff Olivet said coronavirus relief has delayed the rise in homelessness that is now being seen. Although there are various driving factors, the most important cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing. High housing costs left many Americans living paycheck to paycheck and “one crisis away from homelessness.”

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