The US has seen a 2.7 percent increase in homeless population this year, and California is leading the way, adding more street homeless population than all other states combined, a new government report has found.
The fresh report by the Housing and Urban Development Department released Friday has laid bare the problem of rising homelessness that has been plaguing an array of US states, but none of them has experienced a crisis of such proportions as one of the wealthiest states in the country, California, is now facing.
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21,306 more people have been homeless at least on a single night in California than last year, which amounts to an increase of 16.4 percent, the report says. California’s “contribution” to the report has effectively rendered null the progress noted all around the country, as the number of homeless population has plummeted in 29 states and Washington, DC.
Overall, the HUD reported an increase of 14,885 people from last year, which brings the total number of the homeless population in the US to about 568,000.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson noted that California has been lagging behind the rest of the country, urging the state and municipal authorities to step up their game in dealing with the crisis until it spirals out of control.
“In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency.”
The primary reason for a spike in street homelessness along the US West Coast is that the cost of housing there remains “extremely high,” Carson acknowledged. California is also home to a peculiar phenomenon known as ‘working homeless’ brought forth by exorbitant rent prices fueled by the burgeoning tech industry. The inability to afford a rent drives not only vulnerable population, such as veterans, mothers with children to the streets, but also employees who are not well off enough to cover the costs of housing.
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California’s homeless crisis that becomes ever more severe with each and every year has prompted US President Donald Trump to accuse the authorities of a traditionally Democratic state of being inept to tackle the issue.
“What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country. It’s a shame the world is looking at it,” Trump thundered at a campaign rally in August, noting that almost half of the nation’s homeless people live in California. The rebuke coincided with his administration sending a fact-finding mission to California to assess the situation on the ground.
The Trump administration believes that the problem can be solved by loosening restrictions on housing construction, while at the same time tightening screws on the state’s liberal policy towards homeless camps. The September report by the Council of Economic Advisers’ also argued that while shelters are “extremely important” they should not be provided to people who are capable of finding house otherwise.
The approach, however, did not struck a chord with the California state authorities, that count on the federal government subsidies to alleviate the crisis. In response to the HUD report, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called on the White House to “step up” with more funds, arguing that the federal authorities are not doing enough to help Californians.
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