Homelessness on the Rise

ECONOMY-US: Advocacy Groups Fear New Wave of Homeless

Homeless advocates in the United States say if the new Congress and the Barack Obama administration do nothing, many more low-income people already teetering on the brink could end up living on the streets over the next two years.

“The numbers, unfortunately, are expected to rise and get worse before it gets better,” Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told IPS. “It’s going to get worse unless people come to the bargaining table.”

“We’ve projected there [will] be an additional 1.5 million people who experience homelessness over the next two years if we don’t do anything,” said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH).

The NAEH broke down statistics that show homelessness decreased from January 2005 to January 2007, based on snapshot counts collected by homeless services agencies that are required by the government to count their client populations every other year on one night in January.

The count fell from 744,313 in 2005 to 671,859 in 2007. Overall, 34 states and the District of Columbia reported decreases in homelessness.

But more recent figures signal a reversal of this trend. In December 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that of 25 cities surveyed, 19 reported some kind of increase in homelessness between Oct. 1, 2007 and Oct. 30, 2008.

The report concluded that it is “unclear” how the economic crisis and foreclosure epidemic will affect homelessness in the next two years. “However, with the economy in a recession and unemployment rising, it is likely that the need for homeless services will remain steady if not increase,” it said.

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