The homeless population in the U.S. saw its biggest spike on record this year, the latest indicator that the country is struggling to address a dire homelessness crisis.
The number of homeless people across the country spiked by about 11% this year, the largest jump in more than 15 years when the government first started tracking the data, according to The Wall Street Journal’s review of data from around the country.
The Journal counted more than 577,000 homeless people so far this year, reviewing data from more than 300 entities that count the homeless population.
Not including the first year of the COVID pandemic, the second highest jump in homeless people was a 2.7% jump in 2019, the Journal reported.
A laundry list of factors are contributing to the homeless crisis — especially rising housing costs.
Housing costs have become a more urgent driver of homelessness now that COVID relief has ran out and eviction moratoriums have been lifted, according to advocates.
“The Covid-relief funds provided a buffer,” Donald Whitehead Jr., executive director at the National Coalition for the Homeless, told the Journal. “We’re seeing what happens when those resources aren’t available.”
Rents have spiked since the pandemic, and prices remain high and unfeasible for many Americans. The national median rent price is currently $2,029, according to Rent.com. Rent prices have risen by more than 15% nationally since the pandemic.
The country’s drug addiction crisis is another driver of homelessness.
A record 109,680 people died from drug overdoses in 2022 in the U.S., according to an early estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Washington and Wyoming saw the biggest increase of 22% in overdose deaths last year.
Some areas have been particularly affected by out of control homelessness. Several major cities on both coasts have been battling a spike in people living on the streets for months.
In San Francisco, homelessness has only gotten worse since before the pandemic. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night, up 35% since 2019.
The homeless crisis is getting worse in Los Angeles as well. Homelessness is up 9% in Los Angeles County, rising to about 75,518 people this year, up from 69,144 in 2022, according to this year’s greater Los Angeles homeless count results.
New Orleans also saw its homeless population increase by almost 15%.
In New York, the homeless crisis is exacerbated by an influx of tens of thousands of illegal migrants.
Since April of last year, more than 90,000 migrants have arrived in New York City. As of this month, about 55,000 are still being housed on the city’s dime, causing New York’s homeless shelters to burst at the seams. Combined with the city’s large homeless population, the city is now sheltering a record 105,800 people.
Massachusetts resorted to asking citizens to consider opening their homes to illegal immigrants as the state scrambles to confront a dire shelter shortage. The plea to residents came Wednesday, a day after Democratic Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency for the migrant crisis.
Meanwhile, crime accompanies the homeless issue in many areas, particularly in cities.
Open-air drug markets and violent crime driven by homeless people in cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, and Philadelphia have frustrated residents and businesses and chased them out of the neighborhoods.