Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Homelessness increased slightly this year compared to 2017 -- but declined for families with children nationwide, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Monday.
The department's annual homeless assessment report found that 552,830 people experienced homelessness for at least one night this year, an increase of 0.3 percent. It said homelessness for families with children, though, dropped 2.7 percent and 5.4 percent for veterans.
The report said individuals living in "unsheltered" areas -- like streets, abandoned buildings and other unsecured areas -- was the main driver in the increase in the homeless population this year. People living in those conditions increased by 3 percent.
The study added that more than 180,000 people in families with children were counted as homeless in 2018, but 91 percent of those people were living in "sheltered locations," like homeless shelters or connected with transitional housing programs.
"Our state and local partners are increasingly focused on finding lasting solutions to homelessness even as they struggle against the headwinds of rising rents," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement.
"Much progress is being made and much work remains to be done but I have great hope that communities all across our nation are intent on preventing and ending homelessness."
The Wall Street Journal reported that homelessness in New York City, the nation's largest city, increased by 2.8 percent -- pushed up by more people living in shelters while the number on the streets dropped.
There was a 4.7 percent decline in homelessness in Los Angeles County in California, after its rate increased for four consecutive years, boosted by an improvement in shelters and affordable housing.
"Communities across the country are getting better and better at making sure that people exit homelessness quickly through Housing First approaches," Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said in a statement.
"We know, however, that a lack of housing that people can afford is the fundamental obstacle to making further progress in many communities."
The report said homelessness among veterans is nearly half of what was reported in 2010, helped by targeted initiatives by HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.