Homeless Rates Up In Phoenix, Across U.S.

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 10:22am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.29 MB)
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
Bedding is laid out for homeless guests staying overnight at Grace Community Church through Tempe Community Action Agency's I-HELP.

More Americans are homeless than this time last year, despite a low unemployment rate.

Across the country 552,800 people are without homes, up by about 2,000 from 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's point-in-time tally. It was the second consecutive increase after seven straight years of declines.

The number of homeless referred to as unsheltered — those living in the streets, encampments or other open places — was more than 194,000 nationwide. That also was up from last year.

The count in the Phoenix area was nearly 6,300, up 12 percent from the previous year. About 40 percent of people without homes are living in shelters.

The region's status as the fastest-growing county in the U.S., with 200 people a day moving in, is a factor in the rising homeless number, said Anne Scott, a human services planner who coordinates the count for the Maricopa Association of Governments.

"Some of those folks are not as successful as they hoped to be," she said. "Housing prices are very high. Eviction rates are high. We see a lot of folks who are right on the edge who are slipping into homelessness."

The number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and San Diego, two epicenters of the homelessness crisis, fell this year, suggesting those cities' efforts to combat the problem could be starting to pay off.

In Los Angeles, the count fell by 3 percent after a sharp increase the year before. Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said that can be credited to results of six months of stepped-up homeless services after Los Angeles County voters raised taxes to help in 2017.

Later that year, Los Angeles city voters approved a bond issue to provide more affordable housing — a factor Lynn said will start showing up in future counts.

"We're also dealing with the countervailing pressure of housing markets that are pretty unforgiving," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

If you like this story, Donate Now!