A new federal point-in-time census of the US homeless population, taken in January 2016 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), found that across the nation even in New York City the number of homeless people declined slightly, following a steady trend observed over the last six years. Numbers of homeless people rose in several western states, however, and as the Chronicle reports, HUD attributes that directly to the growing shortage of affordable housing.
Homelessness is down 3 percent nationwide, but up 3 percent in California, year over year, with a total American homeless population estimated at 549,928. The study found that 68 percent were staying in shelters, and 32 percent of those nationwide were living on the street, as the Examiner notes. And since 2010, homelessness has decreased 14 percent across the country.
The count for 2016 was up 7 percent in Los Angeles, however, with 43,854 homeless up from 41,174 in 2015. And homelessness is on the rise in Washington State to the tune of 7 percent, and up 4 percent in Hawaii. The count also rose under one percent in Oregon.
San Francisco's count appears essentially the same as the last city-sponsored point-in-time census in 2015, just under 7,000.
HUD Secretary Julian Castro gave a statement saying, "We have a lot left to do. I sure hope the next administration will take the baton and make more progress, and not drop the baton.”
San Francisco's homeless problem has been front and center in the news this year and much debated, spurred by the heightened visibility of large tent encampments something that voters pushed for the more aggressive removal of by approving Prop Q last week.
However homeless advocates have repeatedly pointed out that that heightened visibility of the homeless is itself only a product of the city's severe shortage of shelter beds and the inadequacies of the shelter system itself, which most often only allows people somewhere to stay, without their belongings, for one night. Still, shelters in SF consistently have a waiting list of over 700 people.
Meanwhile, in Berkeley, a protest encampment of sorts consisting of about 20 people some of them homeless activists who say they were fighting for legal camping spaces was ousted and dismantled in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday, as the Chronicle reports.
When confronted by one of people being ousted after they had attempted to move to the steps of the Berkeley post office, and asked where they were supposed to go, Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin replied, "I don’t have an answer to that. There were places we were looking at. I don’t know. We need to talk to the city manager." And in an interview with the Chronicle he admitted, "Fundamentally, there’s not enough housing."