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What's being done to curb homelessness in US suburbs

Groups across the U.S. are reporting a rise in homelessness not just in urban areas, but suburbs as well. Efforts are underway to help.
Posted at 2:11 PM, Jun 05, 2023

Homelessness remains on the rise in the U.S.

In fact, it has been on the rise since 2017, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. While signs of an increase are most present in major cities, many suburban communities are seeing increases too.

Affluent suburbs impacted

Loudoun, Virginia, is a suburban community about 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. 

"This is the most amount of individuals that we have seen experiencing homelessness," said Ryan Harrison, an employee with family services in Loudoun County.

The county is known for its quaint, historic districts and for having former President Donald Trump’s country club. It includes one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the entire country.

However, like so many suburban communities in recent years, homelessness is on the rise in Loudoun County. 

In fact, government officials say it's up 30% since 2019.

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"One cannot overstate the ramifications or the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic," Harrison told Scripps News."One being the inflated cost of housing and rent," Harrison added. "Many of our working-class families are priced out of the units that they are currently occupying.”

Harrison said homelessness in suburbs sometimes isn't as visible as it is in cities, with more people often choosing to live in shelters as opposed to the streets, but not having a home is still the same.

"Ultimately, it is up to that individual to see how they want to face this dramatic event," Harrison said.

White House plan

The rise in homelessness in suburbs and cities has attracted the attention of the White House. Last month, the Biden administration announced a plan to reduce homelessness by 25% by 2025.

Specific metro areas are being targeted, including Phoenix. The plan also targets the entire state of California.

These areas and others will soon have dedicated federal officials working with local partners to identify ways to get everything from housing vouchers to Medicaid assistance to help those in need more efficiently.

Over $5 billion in federal taxpayer dollars have been spent to reduce homelessness in the last two years.

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Help is needed

Thomas Barnett says the issue goes well beyond government and money.

"Government alone can't do it," Barnett, a housing coordinator in Fairfax County, Virginia, tells Scripps News.

Barnett says better coordination among nonprofits is needed, as are more affordable housing options.

Barnett says the biggest thing needed may just be a better-informed public, emphasizing just because you live in the suburbs doesn't mean homelessness isn't impacting your community.

"I think homelessness in the suburbs has always been somewhat hidden," Barnett said.