Homeless for Christmas: Homelessness Encampments Increase in U.S., Met with Crackdowns in Cities
Several U.S. cities are cracking down on homeless encampments as the rate of homelessness across the country has increased in recent years.
According to ABC News, the federal count of homeless went up to 580,000 in 2022 due to the lack of affordable housing, COVID-19’s economic impact on households, and lack of access to mental health and addiction treatment.
Encampments in cities ranging from Los Angeles to New York have taken place amid public pressure from resident’s complaints about dangerous and unsanitary living conditions. At the same time, however, efforts have had little effect on the increased number of tents on sidewalks, parks, and freeway off-ramps.
According to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, over 3,700 across the nation face homelessness on any given night.
“We are seeing an increase in these laws at the state and local level that criminalize homelessness, and it’s really a misguided reaction to this homelessness crisis,” Scout Katovich, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said.
The ACLU has previously filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of sweeps and property seizures in multiple cities, including Minneapolis, Miami, Albuquerque, Anchorage, and Boulder, Colorado.
“These laws and these practices of enforcement do nothing actually to alleviate the crisis, and instead, they keep people in this vicious cycle of poverty,” she said.
In Phoenix, encampments increased significantly to over 3,000 last year from 1,200 in 2019, according to data requests shared with the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Las Vegas removed at least 2,500 encampments.
According to a June report from Comptroller Brad Lander, New York removed 2,300 people from encampments, 119 accepted temporary shelter, and three received permanent housing.
Some houses of worship have responded to the homeless crisis by giving people a place to stay.
Per The Roys Report, the Washington D.C.-based church, The Epiphany Church, has been functioning as a hypothermia shelter for the winter.
The “hypothermia season,” lasting from Nov. 1 through Mar. 31, is meant to help homeless people at high risk from extremely low temperatures.
“Being able to open our doors means that there’s hopefully one less person who dies from hypothermia while sleeping on the street,” The Rev. Glenna Huber, rector of Church of the Epiphany, told Episcopal News Service.
Between 2022 and 2023, homelessness in Washington, D.C., increased by 18 percent.
Huber explained that men who stay overnight at the church have the choice to go to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, which is located across the street, to store their personal belongings in a locker, shower, and eat lunch provided by World Central Kitchen. This nonprofit organization provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises and natural disasters.
The men are also invited to attend the church’s morning hot breakfast program, The Welcome Table, where they can also charge their phones, talk to others, and rest. Huber added that some of the men are also parishioners.
Meryl Glidewell, Church of the Epiphany’s senior warden, told Episcopal News Service that the church’s function as a hypothermia shelter serves as an example of “being good shepherds of our space.”
“For Epiphany, it’s a part of our core mission to be in relationship with people, to care for people,” Glidewell said. “This is a very tangible way for us to love and care for our neighbors where we’re located, where we can use the physicality of our space to welcome our neighbors and bring forward our mission and our relationship with people.”
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
We would do well to consider how biblical patterns might inform our contemporary actions. Read James Spencer’s full article here.
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