The United States has hit a record high for the amount of Americans experiencing homelessness this year since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began keeping count in 2007.
The report found that 653,100 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2023, which is a 12% increase from 2022. The total is equivalent to around 20 of every 10,000 people in the U.S.
The total reflects the increase in all homeless populations. Homelessness among people in families with children experiencing homelessness increased by 16%, while individuals experiencing homelessness increased by 11%. Homelessness among veterans also rose by 7.4%.
The increase is presumably a result of growing housing costs, limited affordable housing, the end of pandemic protections that kept people in housing, and an increase in migrants in shelters in cities like New York City, according to federal officials.
“We simply don’t have enough homes that people can afford,” said Jeff Olivet, the U.S. Interagency Council executive director on Homelessness. “When you combine rapidly rising rent, that it just costs more per month for people to get into a place and keep a place, you get this vicious game of musical chairs.”
“The most significant causes are the shortage of affordable homes and the high cost of housing that have left many Americans living paycheck to paycheck and one crisis away from homelessness,” Olivet said.
The report showed that the states with the highest rate of homelessness were California, Oregon, Hawaii, Arizona, and Nevada. The lowest rates of homelessness were in Vermont, New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Wisconsin
According to the report, more than half of all homeless individuals were in four states: California at 28% or 181,399 people, New York at 16% or 103,200 people, Florida at 5% or 30,756 people, and Washington at 4% or 28,036 people.
The report also showed that minorities, while a small percentage of the population, are becoming homeless at a growing rate.
While individuals who identify as Black make up about 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 37% of people experiencing homelessness. Those who identify as Hispanic or Latino make up about 19% of the population but account for around 33% of those experiencing homelessness.
The report also revealed that more than a quarter of the adults experiencing homelessness were over age 54.
Homelessness has been steadily rising since 2017 due to a massive shortage of affordable housing. It slowed during the pandemic, and Biden administration officials believe that it was the federal aid that kept people from getting evicted.
Last year, that aid started running out, inflation reached its highest level in a generation, and median rent also hit a record high. Research indicates that wherever rent rises, homelessness does as well.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge believes that homelessness can be fixed, with the proper “solutions and strategies.”
“Homelessness is solvable and should not exist in the United States,” she said in a statement. “We’ve made positive strides, but there is still more work to be done. This data underscores the urgent need for support for proven solutions and strategies that help people quickly exit homelessness and that prevent homelessness in the first place.”