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Homeless America: Find Your Shelter to Sleep
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Homeless America: Find Your Shelter to Sleep

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USA – April 17, 2019

Over half a million Americans are homeless. Homelessness was first viewed as a national issue in the United States in the 1870s, Kenneth Kusmer writes in his book Down And Out, On the Road: The Homeless in American History. Since then, many non-profit and government programs have been created to help give more people access to a safe place to sleep. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that the number of shelters throughout the country is going to continue to grow. HUD’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that 552,830 persons experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018, an increase of 0.3 percent since last year.

Long-term or chronic homelessness among individuals with disabilities grew by 2.2 percent since 2017, though the number is 16.4 percent below the levels reported in 2010. This longer trend is due in part to a concerted effort to make more permanent supportive housing opportunities more available for people with disabling health conditions who otherwise continually cycle through local shelters or the streets. Research demonstrates that for those experiencing chronic homelessness, providing permanent housing, coupled with appropriate low-barrier supportive services, is the most effective solution for ending homelessness, the HUD’s report reads.

The homeless subpopulation is particularly at risk because of how exposed they are at night. Because of this, deaths caused by hypothermia were thirteen times higher than they were for those with proper shelter at night, according to one study.

The Californian Bay Area has the third-largest homeless population in the United States, with nearly 70% living unsheltered — on the streets, in cars, tents or elsewhere, according to a new study about homelessness in the region. Some 28,200 people are homeless in the Bay Area, behind New York City with 76,500 and Los Angeles at 55,200, according to the study published last Wednesday.

And yet, a larger number of people in the Bay Area are experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“The population of homeless people in the region has been growing at a time of expanded economic opportunity. That shouldn’t be the case,” said Adrian Covert, vice president of public policy at the Bay Area Council. “The problem is bigger than we even thought it was before."

One of the reasons the homeless move around so much: Not enough shelter. New York, Covert said, has a homeless population more than double that of the Bay Area yet can provide shelter to 95% of them. In the Bay Area, 67% of homeless are unsheltered.

“We shouldn't be surprised that they move around to try to find the safest place that they can to rest,” he said. “We need as a region to have a tough conversation about what types of shelter accommodations that we need to build and in what numbers and where.”

The lack of shelter points to a larger housing issue facing the Bay Area: a lack of affordable or government-subsidized homes. For those households earning less than 30% of the area median income (known as extremely low-income or ELI), the region’s expensive housing market severely “narrows the margin between housing insecurity and homelessness,” according to the study.

In the Bay Area, some 306,000 households qualify as ELI, and two-thirds of them, about 196,000 spend more than 50% of their income on rent, often leaving less than $1,000 a month for other basic expenses. While Alameda County has the highest number of such rent-burdened households, Solano, Sonoma and San Mateo counties have the highest proportion of them, KQED noted.

“We haven't been able to build homes at the pace that we need to, which has driven more people on the street,” Covert said, calling it a "farm system to homelessness."

Even if the region could sustain 2017's rate of a 2,500 annual increase in permanent support housing units, at the current growth rate of homelessness, the Bay Area wouldn't be able to provide beds for all homeless residents until 2037, the study said.

Most shelters in the United States expect residents to leave the shelter in the morning. They can then return in the evening for a meal and to sleep. When looking at shelters, pay careful attention to curfew. There are also daytime-only shelters in many cities for people that may not be able to stay at their shelter.

However, private security companies sometimes being supported by state troopers often conduct homeless encampment sweeps, as USA Really has reported.

Startsleeping.org is maintaining a very large list of homeless shelters. If you have no place to sleep, please contact one of them.

Choose your state:

Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | District of Columbia | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

In addition to the shelters above, there are many programs in place that could help. Be sure to go to your local library to find resources and programs that they may offer to assist you. Many libraries offer temporary library cards. There are also many government assistance programs offered. Some of the primary programs include Social Security Supplemental Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.

There are many agencies and nonprofits committed to ending homelessness and offering support to those in need.

A 2-1-1 hotline offers 24/7 assistance to help gain access to services like shelter, health care, food, and other social services programs. Find your community’s 2-1-1 hotline | Call 2-1-1

The Continuum of Care (CoC) program is offered to support people in need with access to shelter, housing, and other resources. Contact the CoC in your area through this HUD Resource to find the closest CoC.

If you are in need of meals, find your local food bank. Feeding America has a wonderful tool to find the nearest one in your area through this zip code search tool.

If you live in a rural area, the National Community Action Partnership may offer programs to assist you.

Veterans can access a large number of VA resources that are organized on the VA.gov website through this link. The VA created a list of federal and community resources that could be helpful for Non-VA individuals and families experiencing or at the risk of experiencing homelessness.

If you are a teenager and thinking about running away or currently living on the street, visit the National Runaway Switchboard or call 1-800-621-4000. There are also services for parents to help prevent children from running away.

If you are suffering from domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline offers 24/7 support through 1-800-799-7233 and chat in addition to a safety plan.

Author: USA Really