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States of emergency in major US cities over homeless crisis

Homeless people sleep near Penn Station in New York City on December 21, 2015. (AFP Photo)

An increasing number of US cities are declaring states of emergency as homelessness is becoming more prevalent and a serious issue to deal with, reports say.

The cities of Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; and Seattle, Washington as well as the entire state of Hawaii have become the latest to take drastic measures to fight the crisis.

"We know that we have many individuals and families in Hawaii that are homeless, not only during the holiday season but year 'round," said Scott Morishige, the Hawaii governor's coordinator on homelessness. "We're committed to being able to respond to that need."

Los Angeles has yet to declare its own state of emergency, but campaigners describe its current condition as "the worst man-made disaster in the US."

The 50-block area of downtown LA, called Skid Row, has been a national emblem of homelessness for over a decade.

However, the shambolic shanty town of tents and cardboard boxes is expanding and while the official figures show homelessness in the area has soared by 12 percent, experts believe the increase is much greater.

"The violence, the chaos has greatly increased. It is startling. Most of all we need a change of heart about these precious people who are dying on our streets," Reverend Andy Bales, the chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission, told Sky News.

In its annual survey last week, the US Conference of Mayors concluded that homelessness had increased by 1.6 percent over the previous year.

A resident sets up a fire at a homeless encampment in Washington DC as city tries to clear up the location on November 20, 2015. (AFP photo)

The survey included Los Angeles and Washington DC as well as 22 other cities experiencing the problem.

The largest increase in homelessness was in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, where the number of people experiencing homelessness rose by 28 percent and the number of homeless families went up by 60 percent.

Other US cities including, Chicago, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and San Francisco, California are suffering from the same problem.

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