The nation's homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010, driven by a surge in the number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development released its annual Point-in-Time count Wednesday, a report that showed nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country during local tallies conducted in January, per the AP. That figure is up nearly 1% from 2016. Of that total, 193,000 people had no access to nightly shelter and instead were staying in vehicles, tents, the streets, and other places considered uninhabitable. The unsheltered figure is up by more than 9% compared with two years ago.
Increases are higher in several West Coast cities, where the explosion in homelessness has prompted at least 10 city and county governments to declare states of emergency since 2015. City officials, homeless advocates, and those living on the streets point to a main culprit: the region's booming economy. Rents have soared beyond affordability for many lower-wage workers who until just a few years ago could typically find a place to stay. While the overall homeless population in California, Oregon, and Washington grew by 14% over the past two years, the part of that population considered unsheltered climbed 23%, to 108,000. That's in part due a shortage of affordable housing. The AP has more.