How bad is the problem?
About 554,000 people in the U.S. were homeless on any given night in 2017—including nearly 58,000 families with children—meaning they didn’t have a safe, permanent place to sleep. That figure represents a 1 percent rise since 2016—the first time the nation’s homeless population has increased in seven years. But the country’s biggest cities, especially those on the West Coast, have seen a far bigger rise in homelessness. New York City, which has the nation’s largest homeless population, reported a 4 percent increase since 2016 to about 76,500 people, San Diego a 5 percent increase to 9,160, and Los Angeles a 26 percent increase to nearly 55,200. Many of those homeless people crowd into places like L.A.’s “Skid Row,” where hundreds of tents and tarpaulin shanties crowd the sidewalks just blocks from City Hall. “Skid Row is—and long has been—a national disgrace,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in a recent editorial. “In the world’s richest nation, homelessness on this scale should be shameful and shocking.”