Homelessness remains a challenging situation for different regions across the US. The rate of homelessness in 2013 was put at 195 people for every 100,000 individuals. Some of the states that account for the majority of these number are New York, Hawaii, and California. Different factors are influencing this rate and causing the variation across the country. These include the general population size of the states, the cost of living, and the laws and policies put in place by authorities.
Homelessness in Hawaii
Hawaii is a dream vacation destination of many people. However, this state is plagued by jaw-dropping rates of homelessness. In Hawaii, at least 465 out of every 100,000 people are living in the streets of Hawaiian cities. The juxtaposition of beautiful sandy beaches against the tented streets makes for a sore sight in counties of this American paradise. The number of homeless people in Hawaii altogether hit 7,000 in 2014, an increase of close to 10% from the previous year. Waianae is home to the largest population of homeless people in the entire country. In this city, there is a considerable gap between the wages and the cost of living and this has been one of the factors accounting for the high levels of homelessness.
Causes of Hawaii’s High Homelessness Rate
Hawaii’s case of homelessness is most likely a result of poor policies relating to homelessness. These policies are not only unfair against the homeless people, but they are also fueling the situation further. For example, there are legal penalties against homeless people found sitting or lying in Hawaiian streets. These individuals are often thrown into jail cells and charged fines of up to $1,000 leading them deeper into debt such that they are not able to afford even the cheapest temporary accommodation facilities.
Hawaii’s climate has also been cited as a cause for the high rate of homelessness. The weather in Hawaii is not as brutal as in some other US cities like Boston. Although there have been homeless people awarded trips back to their homes on the US mainland, they return to the Hawaiian streets later when they are not able to afford to be homeless in their home states.
Homelessness in New York
New York’s statistics on homeless populations are nothing short of disturbing. The number of homeless people has peaked in recent years reaching the highest since the 1930s’ Great Depression. In May 2018, the New York City municipal shelter system reported accommodating more than 61,000 people every night. African-Americans account for roughly 58% of the population while Latinos account for about 31%.
The unique feature of New York’s homeless population is not much its size but rather a large number of families in proportion to single individuals. According to the statistics, at least 15,023 families are living on the streets of New York. These families make up 75% of the population at the homeless shelters. The population in the municipal shelters has gone up by about 85% over the last decade.
New York’s High Cost of Living
Research studies have revealed that the primary cause of homelessness, especially among families, is the high cost of living in New York along with the lack of affordable housing. The New York housing market is famed for having some of the fanciest pieces of real estate, but only a small proportion of the population can afford to purchase or rent. Surveys of homeless families in New York have cited some immediate causes of homelessness as eviction, job loss, overcrowded housing, domestic violence, and hazardous housing.
Homelessness in California
California may be renowned for having some of the flashiest cities and most luxurious homes, but it is also home to the third largest population of homeless people in the country. Los Angeles alone, according to a 2017 report, had 55,188 homeless people. The difference between Los Angeles and New York City is that 95% of the homeless population in New York is sheltered in contrast to the 25% of Los Angeles’ homeless population. San Francisco and San Diego also rank highly among the regions with high populations of homeless people in California. The number of homeless people in the whole country increased between 2016 and 2017, but Los Angeles alone accounted for 60% of the increase.
Huge Disparities Within the Population
The economy of California is ranked 5th largest in the world. This ranking puts California ahead of the UK. However, there is a considerable number of people living in poverty within this state accounting for almost 20.4%. Generally, this statistic brings to light the massive gap between the rich and the poor living in the state. The wealthy are extremely rich, and the poor are also extremely poor, which is surprisingly a common phenomenon across the globe not only in California.
High Cost of Housing
The high cost of securing habitable housing has been cited as a significant cause of the large numbers of homeless people in San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The cost of housing in many Californian cities has been on a steady rise over the last decade. The supply of housing is also not as swift as the demand. Therefore, the rents are exorbitantly priced. A notable number of California’s population lives in trailers which is a cheaper option than a costly apartment in the cities of the state.
A Changing Situation
The causes of homelessness in many US states are pegged around restrictive laws, cost of living, and large populations in the cities. Nonetheless, there have been measures put in place to ensure that the homeless people still receive care and support from their communities as much as possible. According to the statistics raised, the number of homeless individuals dropped by an inspiring 9% from 672,000 to 610,000 between 2007 and 2013. Despite having among the highest rates of homelessness in the country, New York also leads among the states that have put in place measures to counter the increase in many homeless people. Non-profit organizations across the country have been at the forefront of the campaigns and fund drives to supplement the government contribution for the care and welfare of homeless populations in different cities.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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