Many people trace the roots of the current homeless crisis back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He came into office in 1981 with a mandate to cut federal spending. And cut he did. Early in his term Reagan halved the budget for public housing and even tried to eliminate federal subsidies for public low-income housing. The annual budget of $16 billion in 1979 went to just $1 billion in 1983. Reagan also did a number of other things that contributed to a spike in poverty. There was also a recession. By the mid-1980s, there were about 600,000 homeless people in the United States. Today there are from 634,000 to 1.6 million homeless in the U.S., according to various studies. In Berkeley, official estimates say were 834 homeless people as of January 2015, while advocates say there are likely more than 1,000.
It was such a novel idea that newspapers around the country wrote about it.