Since the early 1980's, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has studied the extent of hunger and homelessness issues in cities throughout the U.S., as well as efforts cities are making to address these challenges. The findings of their most recent study are grim and yet not surprising - cities across the U.S. are seeing an increase in homelessness and emergency food assistance. The report is a great resource, shedding light on the struggles many people face in obtaining what are very basic human needs - food and shelter.
A summary of findings from the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2010 Hunger and Homelessness Survey:
- Over the past year, the number of persons experiencing homelessness increased across the survey cities by an average of 2%, with 52% of the cities reporting an increase, 36% reporting a decrease, and three cities saying it stayed the same.
- Among families, the number experiencing homelessness increased across the survey cities by an average of 9%, with 58% reporting an increase, 21% reporting a decrease, and 21% saying it stayed the same.
- Among households with children, unemployment led the list of causes for homelessness cited by city officials. It was followed by lack of affordable housing, poverty, low-paying jobs, and domestic violence. Lack of affordable housing led the list of causes of homelessness
- Across the survey cities, an average of 27% of homeless persons needing assistance over the last year did not receive it. Because no beds are available for them, emergency shelters in 64% of the survey cities must turn away families with children experiencing homelessness; shelters in 68% of the cities must turn away unaccompanied individuals.
- Providing more mainstream assisted housing led the list of actions needed to reduce homelessness in the survey cities. This was followed by providing more permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, and having more or better-paying employment opportunities.
- Every city surveyed reported that requests for emergency food assistance increased over the past year, and those requests increased by an average of 24% across the cities.
- Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 56% were persons in families, 30% were employed, 19% were elderly, and 17% were homeless.
- Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger cited by the survey cities, followed by high housing costs, low wages, poverty, and lack of access to SNAP/food stamps.
About the study:
The report presents the results of a survey of 27 of the cities which comprise The U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness. Respondents were asked to provide information on emergency food assistance and homeless services provided between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010. The report was prepared by City Policy Associates, Washington, D.C.