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A Bill to Help Homeless Kids Has a Surprising Foe: Homeless Advocates

A bill designed to expand HUD’s recognition of homelessness has focused attention on the debate over who counts as the most vulnerable population.
A child plays in a city-sanctioned encampment for homeless families in San Diego.
A child plays in a city-sanctioned encampment for homeless families in San Diego. Gregory Bull/AP

Is homelessness in America surging or ebbing? It depends not only upon where you are, but who you ask—and what, precisely, you’re looking for.

Should you live in a big, high-cost city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the number of people living in homelessness is exploding: In those metros, tent cities full of those priced out by soaring housing costs have created a major crisis for local leaders. Overall national figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, tell a different story. At the end of 2017, HUD announced that with the exception of really expensive areas, homelessness had continued to decline across the United States, a 13.1 percent decrease since 2010. When it comes to families with children experiencing homelessness, HUD reported a drop of 5.4 percent since 2016, continuing a 27 percent decline since 2010.