US homeless on rise for first time since 2010

The number of America’s homeless increased for the first time since 2010 this year, according to a new report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The increase was driven by more people on the streets in West Coast cities, including Los Angeles, The Associated Press reported.

The count showed nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country in January. That figure was up nearly 1 percent over 2016, the AP said.

At least 10 city and county governments in the West have declared states of emergency over the crisis since 2015, the AP said.

Communities in California, Oregon and Washington have seen homeless encampments appear near freeways and rivers.

HUD said 193,000 people nationwide had no nightly shelter and were staying in cars, tents and the streets.

According to the AP, a booming economy has led to soaring rent prices. Even temporary setbacks can lead to homelessness for these people.

“A lot of people in America don’t realize they might be two checks, three checks, four checks away from being homeless,” Thomas Butler Jr., who stays in a carefully organized tent near a freeway ramp in downtown Los Angeles, told the AP.

The numbers of homeless increased by 14 percent over the past two years in California, Oregon and Washington. In Seattle, the unsheltered population grew 23 percent to 108,000, the AP reported.