America's cities are facing a homelessness crisis not seen in decades. Major cities throughout the country have begun taking extreme measures to combat the growing mess.

Moments after her swearing-in, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass declared homelessness a state of emergency and vowed to move unhoused people into hotels and motels while the city builds more affordable housing.

In November, New York City Mayor Eric Adams gave first responders and police officers the authority to involuntarily move unhoused people to shelters if they display signs of mental distress.

Shelters across the U.S. have reported surges in people looking for help, with wait lists doubling or tripling in recent months. Due to the sheer demand, people are choosing to live in encampments, which have popped up in parks and other public spaces from coast to coast, occupying land from Portland to Washington D.C.

The encampments have also become a political weapon, as they are far more visible in big cities typically governed by Democrats. Leaders have tried to mitigate the problem by bringing unhoused people in without clearing encampments, often seen as a brutal and unpopular strategy, but have found little success as the crisis grows.

Mayor Karen Bass said her initiative to move unhoused people into hotels and motels would not involve clearing out encampments but would take an extended time to fully see through.

"Well, you know, what we have found in the community organizations that we're bringing in to do this work is that you can get 95% of the people housed," she said on NBC's Meet the Press. "People will go. It takes a while. You have to do outreach."

The pandemic has also played a key role in the rise of homelessness throughout the U.S. Los Angeles County released a 2022 report in September that counted 41,980 unhoused people in Los Angeles City, up 1.7% since 2020. The total population in Los Angeles is about 3.8 million.

Bass has made homelessness a priority of her newly-minted administration, announcing an executive order Friday that mandates the city to review applications for affordable housing projects within 60 days.

Once construction begins, the city has five days to grant a permit and a certificate of occupancy; the city has two days to complete the process for short-term housing projects, according to a statement from her office.

"This is a dramatic reduction in red tape and acceleration of the construction timeline that will move people inside faster and save precious dollars that can be invested in more housing and more solutions for L.A.'s homelessness crisis," said Mayor Bass. "This is a sea change, and that is what we need to bring a new direction to Los Angeles."

In New York City, homelessness has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In October 2022, 65,633 homeless people, including 20,751 homeless children, slept each night in New York City's main municipal shelter system. A near-record 22,077 single adults slept in shelters each night in October 2022, according to the coalition for the homeless.

Should they sleep on the streets, unhoused people in New York City are exposed to increased risk of crime and violence and extreme weather, including dangerously frigid temperatures.

While Mayor Eric Adams's move to involuntarily house mentally unstable people received widespread criticism, it is just the latest desperate attempt to reduce the number of people living on the streets.

Homelessness took decades to reach the heights it has. Policy failures and a lack of affordable housing have only magnified the issue, and will likely make finding a humane and affordable solution to the crisis another decades-long journey.