Written By Annie Duong
Homelessness is found throughout many communities in the United States. The rising crisis has become a more forefront issue since the 1980s, yet is still pervasive even throughout California today. Every year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development releases the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, giving a statistical overview about the state of homelessness within the United States . Within the past seven years, homelessness has increased for the first time, where 553,742 people experienced homelessness in one night, 65% were in emergency shelters or housing programs, and the remaining 35% were any kind of without shelter . From 2016 to 2017, there was a 12% increase in individuals with repeated chronic patterns of homelessness, which is defined as individuals that have experienced homelessness for one year or had four cases of homelessness added up to 12 months in the past three years. It is crucial to reduce the rates of homelessness because there can be detrimental effects on the individual’s and the public overall health.
There are a multitude of factors that can contribute to homelessness, including housing shortages, rising costs, poverty, physical disabilities, unemployment, mental illness, and many more economic, social or political issues . Within California, the negative effects of homelessness are evident; for example, in Santa Clara County, deaths among the homeless population have risen 164 percent from 2011 to 2016 . An outbreak of hepatitis A within San Diego in 2017 has had devastating effects within the homeless population, indicating a further need to combat homelessness .
So what are some things that can be done locally to help combat these problems? A research study from Orange County United Way, the University of California, Irvine, and Jamboree Housing Corporation investigating the cost of homelessness in Orange County revealed that housing the homeless can help curb some of the systemic costs up to $42 million per year. The estimated yearly cost of health services is approximately half of the costs of services in emergency shelters or in the streets . Other studies also provide evidence that local homeless rates have a strong correlation with lack of housing conditions, which again suggests that providing housing may alleviate rates of homelessness . Some limitations of the research is that it might not sufficiently control for other aforementioned factors in poverty.
There are important implications that these studies have on public policies. For example, it is important for us to have a better understanding of the complex factors that may lead to homelessness and make a unified effort to develop goals and implement them to help combat these issues.
 ”2017 AHAR: Part 1 - PIT Estimates of Homelessness in the U.S.” US Department of Housing and Urban Development. December 2017.
 Hanratty, Maria. (2017). Do Local Economic Conditions Affect Homelessness? Impact of Area Housing Market Factors, Unemployment, and Poverty on Community Homeless Rates, Housing Policy Debate. Housing Policy Debate. 27 (4): 640-655.
 Snow, D.A. and Goldberg R.E. 2017. Homelessness in Orange County: The Costs to Our Community. Orange County United Way.
 “Homeless Death Review Reports.” County of Santa Clara, Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner.
 Nelson, Roxanne. 2018. “Hepatitis A Outbreak in the USA.” The Lancet: Infectious Diseases. 18(1): 33-34.