Arkansas' homeless population increased by just over 9 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to a federal report presented to Congress on Monday.
In 2017, there were 2,467 homeless people counted in the report, or about eight of every 10,000 people living in the state. This year's Homeless Assessment Report to Congress counted 2,712 homeless people in the state, or about nine of every 10,000 residents.
In contrast, Arkansas' homeless population increased by less than 1 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the 2017 report.
"It's just unbelievable right now," Arkansas Homeless Coalition president Sandra Wilson said of the increase in homelessness she's seen in recent weeks. The coalition is a group of service providers, volunteers and residents who advocate for the homeless.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's annual report to Congress, 53 percent of Arkansas' homeless population were not staying in shelters.
Arkansas is one of 10 states where more than half of the homeless population is unsheltered.
The annual report is derived from one-night censuses of the homeless, called point-in-time counts. The next counts in Arkansas will occur in late January.
Little Rock also had one of the highest rates of family homelessness for cities close to its size in the country at 131 people, the report said. Fayetteville, N.C., had 230 people in homeless families and Pasadena, Calif., had 104.
Arkansas overall has 432 homeless people in families with children. Of the remaining 2,280 homeless individuals in Arkansas, 240 are unaccompanied homeless youth, according to the report.
Wilson said in an interview Friday that she's had more calls in recent weeks to place families with young children in housing.
"We have a situation right now that we haven't seen before," she said. "We haven't seen this type of population and these numbers that we're seeing right now."
Arkansas was one of only five states where homelessness among veterans has increased since 2009, according to the report. Arkansas' homeless veteran population was 251.
The other states with increases were Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Hawaii.
Last week, the city of Little Rock announced that it had "effectively ended" veteran homelessness. Earlier this year, Mayor Mark Stodola announced that the city had brought veteran homelessness to functional zero, which means that service providers are aware of who is homeless and can house them quickly.
Homelessness across the nation increased for the second year in a row. The number between 2017 and 2018 increased by 0.3 percent, to about 553,000. Most of the unsheltered homeless are living in the country's 50 largest cities, according to the report.
Metro on 12/18/2018