Homelessness Up Nationwide
The rate of homelessness increased by 3 percent nationwide from 2018 to 2019, according to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report released last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Large increases in California, which counted 21,000 more people experiencing homelessness on one night in January than the previous year, offset smaller declines in homelessness in more than half of states in the U.S., according to the report. California also had the highest rate of unsheltered homeless people, at more than 71 percent. Florida had the largest single decrease in people experiencing homelessness both year over year (2,702 fewer individuals than 2018) and since the report was first released — a drop of 19,741 individuals experiencing homelessness since 2007.
“What the report did not say: homelessness is solvable,” wrote Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement following the report. “… We must invest in expanded federal solutions such as rental assistance, construction of apartments affordable to the lowest income renters, cash assistance to avoid evictions and robust renter protections. We have the data, the solutions, the public support, and the financial means to make sure everyone in our nation has a place to live, and to end homelessness.”
Denver Resumes Enforcing Homeless Camping Ban
The Denver Post reports that police plan to resume enforcement of a temporarily suspended ban on urban camping that primarily affects homeless people. The police stopped enforcing the ban for two weeks, after a judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, and constituted “cruel and unusual punishment,” the paper reported. The Denver City Attorney told the paper she expected additional legal challenges to the ban, but that the police would continue enforcing it while it was in the courts.
Denver’s camping ban has been in place since 2012. Colorado saw one of the largest decreases in statewide homelessness from 2018 to 2019, but the trend in Denver was the opposite, with an 8.2 percent increase in homelessness in the city, according to reports. According to the Post, Denver’s City Council drafted its camping ban to avoid the legal complications that some other cities have faced, particularly in the case of Martin v. Boise, which has affected a number of western cities, as Next City reported last year.
Moms 4 Housing Members Arrested in Oakland
A group of housing activists who had occupied a vacant home in Oakland to call attention to homelessness and property speculation in the city were evicted by police after a two-month standoff, The Mercury News reports. The group Moms 4 Housing, which was formed with the goal of “uniting mothers, neighbors and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators,” had attracted support from a broad range of Oaklanders, including some city council members, the Mercury News reported previously. The real estate investment company that owns the home pursued an eviction, and the Oakland Sheriff’s Office removed two women who had been living in the house and two supporters just after 5 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the report. A GoFundMe account to raise bail for the jailed activists quickly reached its goal earlier this week. They were released Tuesday afternoon, according to the paper.
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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.