In December 2022, the Biden administration released a plan that seeks to eventually eradicate homelessness in the United States, starting with a 25% reduction in the number of people suffering from a lack of reliable access to safe housing over the next two years.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual “point-in-time count” more than one million people experienced “sheltered homelessness” at some point in 2022. Experts warn that the termination of federal aid increases the risk of a major spike in homelessness even more going forward.
The research also concludes that although a majority (60%) of the nation’s unhoused population lives in shelters or other temporary accommodations, a growing share (40%) are struggling in unsheltered settings, including cars, streets, or encampments.
Biden’s plan also states that “unless encampment closures are conducted in a coordinated, humane, and solutions-oriented way that makes housing and supports adequately available, these ‘out of sight, out of mind’ policies can… set people back in their pathway to housing.” The plan is critical of the “criminalization” of homelessness, which has led to the arrests of unhoused people. In addition, mass incarceration, long-standing patterns of discrimination against people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and elderly people have exacerbated housing injustices in America.
Here in King County, homelessness continues to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. As a community, we need to continue our dialogue about race and equity. Furthermore, we need to recognize that homelessness is a symptom of structural racism and racial inequities.
Homeless crisis in America, as well as here in King County, cannot be effectively addressed without looking at some of the contributing factors, such as lack of affordable housing, access to job opportunities, education, etc. that disproportionately impact to people of color. But we need to go beyond demanding that the Federal, State, and local government respond to these crises, and look in the mirror and assess our own biases and lifestyles that contribute to racial injustice and inequality.