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Report: Pandemic could double number of homeless individuals nationally

A homeless camp in South Lake Union. (Jason Rantz, KTTH)

Was $1,800 worth of stimulus checks enough to keep Americans afloat during the pandemic? Not even close, according to a new report by the Economic Roundtable, which estimates that 600,000 Americans could become homeless because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That would double the number of people in this country who have nowhere to live.

Scott Greenstone from the Seattle Times joined the Gee and Ursula Show to discuss his report on the homelessness issue.

“After the great recession more than 10 years ago, lots of folks did become homeless because of unemployment,” he said. “This report looks at that and says that we could be looking at double the number as after the great recession who are going to become homeless in the next few years.”

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Even if the economy improves, Greenstone believes economic conditions may spiral out of control for people who don’t have a familial safety net.

“And even if the economy sort of improves, we’re going to have folks who were in these sort of, what you might call face-to-face industries — you know, restaurants, gyms, here in Seattle a lot of places that sort of support the tech sector — those folks, most of them who are laid off are going to get new jobs. Most of them are not going to become homeless,” he said. “But some of them — who don’t have family to stay with, who have mental illness or substance use issues  — this is going to start a sort of spiral that kind of puts them into eventual homelessness.”

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“And in a few years, across the country, we could have 600,000 people who are homeless,” Greenstone added. “Most of those would be couch surfing folks, so not necessarily out on the street. But a lot of those, about 50,000, could be chronically homeless. That’s the folks who you think of when you think of homeless out in the parks, on the sidewalks, in shelters.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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