Seattle Humger and Homelessness (U,S. Conference of Mayors) FWD

Tom Boland (
Tue, 16 Dec 1997 11:49:37 -0800 (PST)

FWD  A Status Report On Hunger and Homelessness in American Cities
     Completed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors:
     Task Force On Hunger and Homelessness

City:  *Seattle, Washington


Requests by Families for Emergency Food Assistance:  Food banks and hot
meal programs continue to see increasing numbers of both single-parent
and two parent families.  In addition, requests for infant formula, baby
food and diapers at food banks continues to increase.

The Capacity to meet the Need:  City funding stayed constant, and state
funding increased slightly.  Increases, however have not been sufficient
to meet rising demands for services.  In recent months, some food
supplies were diverted to disaster areas (Florida, Louisiana and Hawaii),
and potential donors have shifted their support to these disaster areas.
in addition, USDA commodities distributed by food banks will not be

Emergency Food Assistance facilities: For Emergencies Only or as a Steady
Source of income:  Most emergency meal programs provide meals once or
twice a week, and do not provide more then one meal during each day of
operation. Most food banks are only able to supply enough food to feed a
family for one to two days and must limit food bank visits by a household
to one per week. Even with food stamps and other sources of
income/support, this is not sufficient to provide an adequate amount of

Facilities Having to turn People Away Because of Lack of Resources:  Food
banks generally attempt to serve all people requesting food, which
frequently results in severely limiting the amount of food made available
to each individual of family, and in the setting of limits on the numbers
of visits allowed each month.  recently, however due to severe food
shortages and increased demands for assistance, some food banks are
having to turn people away. Meal programs continue to be overwhelmed by
demands for assistance, and some regularly turn people away.


The Population:  Across the survey cities, it is estimated that single
men comprise 55 percent of the homeless population, families with
children 32 percent, single women 11 percent and unaccompanied youth two
percent of the homeless population. City officials estimate that 52
percent of the homeless population is African-American, 33 percent is
white, 11 percent is Hispanic, three percent is native American and one
percent is Asian.

It is estimated that persons considered mentally ill account for 28
percent of the homeless population in the survey cities; substance
abusers account for 41 percent.  In survey cities 17 percent of the
homeless people are employed in full- or part-time jobs and 18 percent
are veterans.  Nine percent of the homeless people in the survey cities
have AIDS or HIV related illness.

The Conditions faced by Homeless Families and Individuals:  The impact of
homelessness on families is enormous, ranging from depression to severe
stress resulting from continued separation and uncertainty.  Homeless
families and children experience increased health problems due to stress,
exposure and inadequate nutrition, as well as a lack of preventative
health care.

Case Studies of homeless Families and Individuals:  This family of two
parents and three children under the age seven have been in the shelter
system since 1982.  The father is a Vietnam veteran with numerous medical
problems and is currently being treated at the VA hospital.  the family
lost its home as a result of his inability to work, coupled with large
incurred medical expenses.  He qualifies as 100 percent disabled and is
eligible for veterans' benefits.  However, the paperwork and red-tape
have prevented the family from receiving the family to access traditional
housing and has provided  supportive services, including enrolling the
oldest child in a school for homeless children, and providing health care
and information and referral to other community resources.  the family
will remain in transitional housing until the VA benefits become

Limitations on the Use of Shelter Facilities:  Fewer and fewer shelters
providing services to families require that they leave the shelter during
the day if the children are sick or if the family has counseling or
health appointments at the shelter.  however, not all agencies have
sufficient resources to hire staff to provide services to families over a
24-hour period. Families unable to stay at the shelter during the day are
likely to spend the day on the street, in parks, and/or at public
agencies seeking assistance. day care and school are available for
homeless children.

People Turned Away from Shelters:  An estimated 53,000 members of
families of families with children were turned away from shelters in
1991.  The city has a program that provides emergency shelter to homeless
families who are found sleeping on the streets.  however, there has been
a reported increase in the number of families sleeping in cars throughout
the county, and doubling up in poor housing situations.

The number of homeless persons on any given night in Seattle exceeds the
number of shelter beds by 500-800 persons. Single adults often sleep in
doorways, alleys and parks, and this includes increasing numbers of women.
Families and youth often stay in poor housing situations, or sleep in cars
in outlying neighborhoods and parks.

How the problems of Hunger and Homelessness have Changed in 10 Years:  In
the last 12 years, Seattle, King County and suburban jurisdiction, and
areas across the nation have seen a dramatic increase in the number of
individuals and families who are homeless.  The increase in homelessness
in the Pacific Northwest is the result of a number of different trends:

1. Insufficient affordable housing resources due to the decreased federal
funding for housing   development,    demolition of low-cost rental stock
(including SRO hotels), and across the board inflation in the cost of
Seattle's rental housing and land; 2. Inadequate public assistance grants
and low entry-level wages; 3. Lack of educational and training
opportunities; 4. Inadequate community-based treatment and residential
support services for people who are disabled by mental illness,
alcoholism and drug addiction and other disabilities; 5. Domestic
violence and sexual assault and their impact on women, children and teen
agers, particularly teen mothers; 6. Weak economic conditions that
disproportionately affect people of color and non-english speaking
residents, particularly homeless Latinos.

The service response funded by the city has grown dramatically to fill in
the void left by the federal government and to meet drastically greater
levels of need by low income people.

The Most Significant Change:  A dramatic and continuing increase in the
number of homeless single women and families headed by single women who
are living in poverty facing complex and devastating barriers to