Report charts rise of West’s unsheltered homeless

By: - January 29, 2019 12:26 pm
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Police rousting homeless people near Las Vegas Boulevard last year. (Nevada Current file photo)

The growing rates of unsheltered homelessness around the country continues to show a need for policies that support low-income households at risk of becoming homeless according to the Urban Institute.

How Housing Matters, which is a collaboration between the Urban Institute and the MacArthur Foundation, in an analysis of “What Fueled the Increase in Unsheltered Homelessness in 2018?,” charts how unsheltered homeless people are disproportionately concentrated in Western cities, including Las Vegas. Those “hot spots … have a severe shortage of affordable housing for those with extremely or very low incomes.”

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“In some metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, 86 percent of extremely low–income households pay over 50 percent of their income on rent,” according to How Housing Matters. “These rental payments crowd out spending on basic needs. In addition, high rent makes extremely low–income households vulnerable to other financial shocks, such as health emergencies. When these financial shocks arise, the inability to pay those costs plus rent could result in homelessness.”

“To make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring, cities should design policies that support low-income households at risk of becoming homeless and allow nonchronically homeless households to regain stable housing,” according to the article. “More specifically, jurisdictions should invest in housing solutions and services and make shelter options more accessible for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness.”

As Nevada Current reported, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report released in December estimates 56 percent of the state’s homeless population has no access to any sort of shelter. In Southern Nevada alone, about 64 percent of people experiencing homelessness were unsheltered according to the Southern Nevada Comprehensive Report of 2018.

The How Housing Matters article also reflects what Michele Fuller-Hallauer, Continuum of Care Coordinator with Clark County Social Services, previously told Nevada Current. “What I can say is we know 40 percent of unsheltered homeless living outside are found in 11 (metro areas) across the country,” she said, one of them being Clark County.

In addition to stable housing, other solutions to the increasing number of unsheltered homeless include shelters having more flexible policies such as reconsidering sobriety rules or addressing storage needs as well as increasing supportive services such as mental health or substance abuse counseling.

Southern Nevada conducted the annual point-in-time count Jan. 22 — volunteers are expected to conduct a more in-depth survey of the homeless and compile their findings in a larger report later this year. When the results are released, Clark County will be able to see the freshest data regarding its unsheltered homeless population.

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues.