PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — New numbers from the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County show a growing homeless population in Palm Beach County.
Last year, Palm Beach County counted 1,404 individuals either living on the streets or in shelters. However, this year's count, which was taken in January, showed that count was 1,855 people.
Dr. James Green is part of Palm Beach County's effort to stem the tide of homelessness. He's been part of the census team on the streets and said the homeless population has taken on a new face.
"There is a significant portion of individuals we counted, who were unsheltered, that were new to homelessness," Green said. "About 70% of the people we counted were homeless for the first time, and that is a tremendous number."
Green said the reason is simple — the squeeze in the economy and the lack of affordable housing.
"The cost of housing and rent, the economy, the cost of food and gas and some of those other basic necessities and a number of other factors have led to people not being able to afford their rent, they're cost-burdened, which means that they're paying more than 30% of their gross income on rent."
Green said the Palm Beach County Homeless Coalition along with the Housing Alliance are helping hundreds of families with housing assistance.
They've spent $100 million in subsidies on rental assistance trying to keep families in their homes. Otherwise, Green said, the new homeless number would have been much higher.