More than half a million people are homeless each night in the United States, a new White House report has found. And nearly half of them are concentrated in one state: California.
All told, 47% of all unsheltered homeless people nationwide — meaning those who sleep in areas not meant for habitation, such as sidewalks, parks, cars and abandoned buildings, rather than in shelters — live in the Golden State, according to a new report on homelessness from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Unsheltered homeless people represent just over a third (35%) of the overall homeless population nationwide.
At the city level, four of the five cities with the highest rate of unsheltered homelessness are in California: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa and San Jose. Seattle joins the California municipalities in the top five.
In recent weeks, reports have suggested that the Trump administration may stage a federal intervention in California to address homelessness in the state.
As for state homelessness rates, the District of Columbia has the highest in the country, at 5.8 times the U.S. rate. New York is next, followed by Hawaii, Oregon and California. These five states together comprise 20% of the overall U.S. population but 45% of the country’s homeless population.
The White House report teased out certain trends in homelessness across the country. Communities along both coasts have much larger homeless populations than those in the middle of the country. One driver of this trend is likely the more notable rise in housing prices along the coasts than in much of the Midwest.
And states with warmer climates were generally more likely to see larger concentrations of people living on the streets. However, some warmer states such as Texas and Florida have smaller homeless populations than might be expected.
The White House report identified local laws and policing practices as a potential differentiator. “Some [states] more than others engage in more stringent enforcement of quality of life issues like restrictions on the use of tents and encampments, loitering, and other related activities,” the report noted.
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