Hunger And Homelessness 97 Report (U.S. Conference of Mayors) FWD

Tom Boland (
Tue, 16 Dec 1997 12:23:46 -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

(12/15/97) 13th Annual Survey Of Hunger And Homelessness (summary)



Overall demand for both emergency food and shelter grew during 1997 for
most of the major cities surveyed this year by The U.S. Conference of
Mayors, with demand for food increasing at a higher rate, and in more
cities, than has been reported in recent years, and demand for shelter
increasing at a lower rate, and in fewer cities, than in past years --
although more of the shelter demand remained unmet, and shelters in more
cities have had to turn people away.

The mayors' survey of 29 cities -- basically the same cities that have been
surveyed each year since 1985 -- was released today in Washington by
Charleston (SC) Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr., Chair of the Conference's Task
Force on Hunger and

The survey found that requests for emergency food increased this year by an
average of 16 percent, the highest rate of increase since 1992's 18
percent. Eighty-six percent of the cities reported an increase in food
demand, with the majority of requests (58 percent) coming from families
with children. This year, 19 percent of the requests for food are estimated
to have gone unment -- again, the highest rate since 1992 -- with 71
percent of the cities saying they may have to turn away people in need
because of lack of resources. Driving the increased food problems,
according to the survey, are low pay for jobs,
unemployment, cuts in food stamp contained in last year's welfare reform
law, high housing costs and low benefits in public assistance programs.

Requests for emergency shelter increased by three percent in 1997, the
smallest increase in the history of the annual survey. Fifty-nine percent
of the cities -- again, the smallest percentage in survey history --
reported that demand had increased. The progress reflected in these
estimates, however, is offset by other estimates provided: an average of 27
percent of the demand for emergency shelter went unmet, and in 84 percent
of the cities, shelters may have to turn people away. Both of these
estimates are the highest ever reported, and for homeless families, the
estimates are higher still. A partial explanation for this situation,
according to city officials: the number of emergency shelter beds decreased
last year across the survey cities by an average of three percent. The year
before they decreased by an average of 2.5 percent.

In addition, no new Section 8 certificates which subsidize rents for low
income households are being funded by the federal government, and this is
translating into longer waits for assisted housing, more overcrowding and
increased homelessness, according to officials surveyed.

Causes of homelessness are diverse and complex, based on responses to the
survey. This year, substance abuse and the lack of needed services were
identified by 81 percent of the cities as one of the main causes of
homelessness. Lack of affordable housing was cited as a main cause in 78
percent of the cities.

The composition of the homeless population has changed little in recent
years, the survey shows, with single men, at 47 percent, continuing as the
largest group seeking help and families with children, at 36 percent,
continuing to represent a significant portion of the population. Substance
abusers, officials estimate, constitute 43 percent of the population.

Only a few of the survey cities expect demand for emergency food and
shelter to remain at the same level in the year ahead:  Ninety-two percent
expect demand for food to increase; 91 percent expect increased demand for
shelter. No cities expect demand for food or shelter to be lower.

Asked what effect the current strong economy was having on problems of both
hunger and homelessness, city officials replied that it was having little
or no effect and that few of the people they serve have benefitted. Many
have gotten jobs that are low paying and do not provide needed benefits. In
the coming year, welfare reform will likely have a greater effect than the
economy on low income persons, they say.

Cities in this annual survey were Alexandria (VA), Boston, Charleston,
Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City (MO), Los
Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk,
Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Providence, St. Louis, St. Paul, Salt
Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle and

CONTACT: Mike Brown, (202) 861-6708, or Laura DeKoven Waxman, (202) 861-6707

SUMMARY: Hunger And Homelessness Report, 1997

                            The United States Conference of Mayors

                               J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
                            1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
                           Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352