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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Reports from the Department of Housing and Urban Development show that homelessness in the U.S. has exploded in recent years.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) says homelessness was on the rise even before the pandemic hit.

“The significant economic instability brought by COVID-19 and reports of crisis from homeless service providers on the front lines have only heightened concerns,” Cleaver explained.

Sky high housing prices and low wages are a part of the problem.

“The affordable housing crisis is an accelerant to open flames,” Cleaver said.

Ann Olivia, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explained “data shows that more than half of sheltered people and 40% of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness work, but still can’t afford housing,”

In it’s annual report to Congress, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said “sheltered homelessness” fell by 8% in 2021 compared to the year before. However, that statistic alone doesn’t tell the full story.

The pandemic created concerns about living in shelters. Pandemic relief benefits including expanded unemployment benefits and child tax credit payments helped people avoid homelessness.

But Democrats say those programs were temporary and their Build Back Better package could provide more long term solutions if passed by Congress.

Republican Congressman French Hill (R-AR) says solving the issue will require more than housing.

“Whether its clinical help, career coaching or case management. That way people can not only get housed, but eventually get their own place, break the cycle of homelessness and begin their pursuit of happiness,” Hill said.