Massachusetts has highest increase in homeless population in the country

The homeless population of Massachusetts has increased by 14 percent in the last year, according to a recent report from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to the report, there are 20,068 homeless persons in the Commonwealth this year, up from 17,565 in 2017.

This was the highest increase in the country over the last year. According to the HUD report, which is based on point-in-time counts across the country, homelessness has increased in Massachusetts by 32 percent over the last decade, the highest increase after New York.

Massachusetts also sees one of the highest rates of family homelessness, alongside New York, California and Florida, growing by 17 percent in 2018.. The homeless families counted include 7,614  children under 18. Over the last decade, family homelessness has risen by 94 percent in the Commonwealth, according to the report.

Individual homelessness also increased in Massachusetts, by about 9 percent.

The report  noted that Massachusetts sheltered at least 95 percent of its population experiencing homelessness.

While the state struggles, the city of Boston has seen some success in housing veterans and chronically homeless individuals, as well as a 9.4 decrease in homeless families in the 2018 point-in-time count. City officials noted in August that while shelters and services still see a large inflow of clients, Boston still saw a 20 percent decrease in the number of chronically homeless individuals — people who frequently use city shelters and services over the course of one to three years — since 2016.

The report found homelessness increased across the nation by 0.3 percent. It  found that, “one percent of beds for people currently experiencing homelessness were identified as beds for people displaced by presidentially declared natural disasters,” like Hurricane Maria and the West Coast wildfires.

In a blog post, Matthew Doherty, Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, said the report reflected the success of housing first policies and highlighted the challenges of housing affordability.

“With housing costs outstripping incomes, more people are falling into homelessness, and there are fewer avenues out. And that’s slowing or reversing progress in some communities,” he wrote.

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