Homelessness in U.S. Rose for 4th Straight Year, Report Says

A new report almost certainly underestimates the spread, depth and urgency of the crisis given that the data doesn’t yet reflect the pandemic, federal officials warned.

By Glenn Thrush

WASHINGTON — Homelessness in the United States rose for the fourth straight year, with about 580,000 people living on the streets or in temporary shelter at the start of 2020, according to an annual nationwide survey that was completed before the pandemic.

But the report, which was released on Thursday, almost certainly underestimates the spread, depth and urgency of the crisis, and not by a little, federal officials warned.

The report showed a 2.2 percent increase in homelessness from the previous year, but that does not reflect the displacement of people who lost work as a result of the sharp downturn caused by the coronavirus.

“I can’t give you numbers on how much homelessness has increased during the pandemic, but we know it has increased,” Marcia L. Fudge, who was confirmed last week as President Biden’s secretary of housing and urban development, said during a briefing at the White House.

She called the situation “devastating,” and said the country had a “moral responsibility” to address both long-term homelessness and hardships spurred by the coronavirus.

HUD officials say the effect on homelessness might not be known for years. Nationwide moratoriums on evictions, which have been in place since last spring and are scheduled to expire this year, have slowed the pace of displacement, although a Government Accountability Office report released this week showed the programs were not universally effective.

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