Despite a strong economy, homelessness in the U.S. inched up in 2017 and 2018, reversing a previous downward trend. Homelessness in the United States primarily affects urban communities, with about 82 percent of the homeless population in urban areas. Finally, homelessness isn’t distributed evenly. Los Angeles and New York, for example, accounted for 23 percent of all homeless people in the nation in 2018.
Homelessness can be a result of wage stagnation, mental illness, lack of affordable housing, various forms of discrimination, lack of economic opportunities, addiction, and other such factors that have been explained in a Deloitte article The homelessness paradox: Why do advanced economies still have people who live on the streets? Tackling homelessness in its entirety requires taking into account the three stages of homelessness:
- Stage 1: People at risk of homelessness.
- Stage 2: People who are currently homeless.
- Stage 3: People who have found a home but may need help to keep it.
Most efforts to fight homelessness are focused on stage 2, given its urgency, but the other stages also should be addressed. Traditionally, entities combating homelessness—governments, nonprofits, and community service organizations—have applied a variety of policy and economic approaches to address homelessness.