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US homeless population rose 2.7% in 2019, HUD says

TOPSHOT - Tents for the homeless line a sidewalk in Los Angeles, California on December 17, 2019 - The US Supreme Court let a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stand, declining to hear an appeal that would have made it a crime to camp and sleep on public spaces, adding that it was "cruel and unusual punishment" to enforce rules against homeless people camping in public places when they have no where else to go. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The homeless population in the US increased 2.7% this year largely because of a surge in unsheltered and chronically homeless individuals in California, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said in a news release Friday.

The study found that 567,715 people across the nation experienced homelessness on a single night in 2019, an increase of 14,885 people compared with 2018. Meanwhile, homelessness among veterans and families with children declined in the year, dropping 2.1% and 4.8%, respectively.

The number of people experiencing homelessness dropped in 29 states and Washington, DC in 2019, the news release said. But the rise in homelessness in California and elsewhere on the West Coast “offset” the nationwide decreases, the office said.

“As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we’re also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in the release. “In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency.”

An additional 21,306 people were homeless in California in 2019, up 16.4% from the previous year, HUD said.

The data comes after the Trump administration sent a team of officials on a “fact finding” trip to California in September to learn more about homelessness in Los Angeles.

The homeless population in Los Angeles County increased to almost 60,000 people in 2019, despite major investment in combating the crisis, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said in a June report.

Thousands of people became homeless, the authority said, as a result of the economy, foster care, mental health, criminal justice and the housing market.

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