California and New York regularly make headlines about its out of control homeless population and those states are among the locations with the largest homeless populations, but according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), New Mexico came out in the agency’s 2019 report to Congress as the state with the largest increase in that demographic in the country.
The Albuquerque Journal reported on the phenomenon and state lawmakers efforts to address it:
When Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller goes before the state Legislature seeking a $14 million state match to build a homeless shelter, he will be armed with additional ammunition from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report showing New Mexico had the nation’s largest percentage increase in homelessness from 2018 to 2019.
That increase of 27% is detailed in the 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, released Thursday.
In addition, the report shows that the state had a 57.6% increase in chronic homelessness last year, also the highest in the nation.
Lisa Huval, deputy director for Housing and Homelessness for the Albuquerque Family and Community Services Department, told the news outlet that HUD uses data from the annual Point-in-Time Count conducted around New Mexico last January “in both urban and rural areas, and counting both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.”
HUD defines homelessness as an individual or family that does not have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, or has a primary nighttime residence in a space not meant for “human habitation,” or reside in a shelter, Huval said.
In the Journal report Huval blamed state cuts to the “behavioral health system” for the increase.
In a cover letter for the report HUD Secretary Ben Carson summed up its findings, both good and challenging:
In terms of absolute numbers, California has more than half of all unsheltered homeless people in the country (53 percent or 108,432), with nearly nine times as many unsheltered homeless as the state with the next highest number, Florida (6 percent or 12,476), despite California’s population being only twice that of Florida.
The states with the highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people were New York (46), Hawaii (45), California (38), Oregon (38), and Washington (29), each significantly higher than the national average of 17 persons per 10,000. The District of Columbia had a homelessness rate of 94 people per 10,000.
This report demonstrates continued progress towards ending homelessness, but also a need to recalibrate policy to make future efforts more effective and aligned with the unique needs of different communities. With partnerships among the federal government, states, localities, the faith community, and the private sector, together we can join in leading all individuals and families to the right type and level of support to move out of homelessness and into a better life.
One of the demographics that have seen the highest decrease in homelessness is among veterans.
“Between 2018 and 2019, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness declined by two percent (793 fewer people),” the report said. “The decline was shared across those staying in shelter (572 fewer veterans) and those found in unsheltered places (221 fewer veterans).”
“The one-year drop in veteran homelessness between 2018 and 2019 continued a steady decline, with 36,282 fewer veterans experiencing homelessness in 2019 than in 2009, a drop of nearly 50 percent,” the report said.
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