With the coronavirus-induced shock to the economy crippling businesses of all sizes and leaving millions of Americans out of work, homelessness in the United States could grow as much as 45% in a year, according to a new analysis conducted by a Columbia University professor.
That would mean an additional 250,000 or so people would be without permanent shelter compared with the 568,000 who were homeless in January 2019, according to government data.
California is likely to see a smaller increase in homelessness than the nation overall — up 20% from about 150,000 to 180,000 people. The analysis relies on the largely constant rise in unemployment across the United States. Therefore, states with fewer homeless people are likely to see bigger percentage increases than California, which is already home to a quarter of the nation’s homeless population.
Dan O’Flaherty, the professor who conducted the analysis and has studied the economics of homelessness for decades, says the downturn is exacerbating what’s already a public health crisis on many American streets.
“This is unprecedented,” he said. “No one living has seen an increase of 10% of unemployment in a month.”