There's a lot to unpack here, so let's start at the beginning.
Too many people assume that homelessness is mostly/mainly/completely because of mental health issues or drug use issues. That's simply not true. There are many more reasons that those, and they aren't even the leading causes, even though they are part of the problem. Here are the 10 root causes of homlessness and mental health plus drug use are a combined one of these causes.
- Stagnant wages
- Lack of affordable housing
- Lack of affordable healthcare
- Lack of mental health and addiction treatment services
- Racial inequality
- Domestic violence
- Family conflict
- Systemic failures
Wages haven't really increased in decades, as research shows,
and buying power has similarly remained stagnant.
Covid-19 cause something like 14 million people to lose their jobs. Even with the unemployment rate at the lowest rate in 54 years, it takes time for people who lost their homes to get housing again. Just because someone has a job, it doesn't mean they can afford housing. The working poor have been in the news since at least 1999. And IT layoffs are happening again.
Housing prices have risen dramatically, showing that from 2000 to 2020, house prices went from $203k to $375k, and are currently at $536k. Rent is just as bad, going from 2000 to 2020 at $182 per month to $340, and is now at $391 a month.
Healthcare spending has gone up in the last 80 years. There are a lot of factors that go into these issues, but much of it is ever increasing and unregulated medicine costs.
The US is currently at around 7.8% of the population in poverty, or 26.5 million people. The 2022 poverty line is $27,750, and the minimum wage is $7.25 as it's been since 2009.
Mental health statistics show that a huge amount of people are suffering mental health issues, and only about half of them are getting treatment for them. And only 10.3% of people with substance abuse issues are getting treatment for it.
And inequalities in racial wealth are a very well researched topic.
Domestic violence is a major factor, and isn't anything new, unfortunately, with 25,795 homeless domestic violence victims in shelters in 2022, 16,147 unsheltered homeless, and another 6431 in transitional housing.
And then you have cases where people are simply kicked out of their house, unrelated to issues of domestic violence. Around 28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives. There are also at least 4.2 million young people who are homeless, some due to single parents, but others due to getting kicked out of their house or running away from home, and some being single parents/pregnant.
Much of this stems from or culminates into system failures with the history of the US, from racial generational wealth gaps to reducing the funding for public housing to reducing SNAP benefits which many people rely on, and even all that is just scratching the surface.
When people talk about homelessness/the poor/etc... and then try to ask about the GDP, it's often because there's a disconnect between the two that most don't understand.
The GDP is a measure of what's produced in the country.
Gross domestic product (GDP) is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. As a broad measure of overall domestic production, it functions as a comprehensive scorecard of a given country’s economic health.
There is a massive gap between what C-Suite level management gets paid and what their employees get paid. Just over the past couple years, billionaires have gained $2.1 trillion in wealth. In the last 30 years or so, CEO pay has risen from making 70 times their average employee to making 340 times their employees average pay. Some studies say that might be as high as 670 times, also stating that CEO pay has risen 1460% since 1978.
If you look at how they are doing it, there's a lot of ways, but much of it has been through stock buybacks. So, instead of paying their employees more, they are just raising the stock market values and their own income with the recent record profits and loans they've been getting.
Combine this with the stagnant wages mentioned earlier, you'll see that GDP has little to do with how the lowest paid and/or homeless are gaining wealth.
I didn't concentrate much on "the last decade", as the question asks, but there's been quite a bit just in the last 3-5 years that has contributed to people being homeless, and looking at the large amount of graphs in the articles linked here show a significant amount of the problem has happened in the past 10-20 years. Also, actually seeing homeless people has been due to higher visibility in the news as well as the homeless population being more dense in urban areas than in rural areas with 50% of homeless people being in urban areas, even though only 25% of people in this country living in urban areas. If you are more aware of the problem, you are more likely to actually notice the problem when it's present.
And while all that I mentioned is a problem, there are cities that are banning tent cities without addressing the root causes listed above. Homelessness is a tricky problem on more than one front, but there's a lot we as a country aren't doing to prevent this problem.