Earlier this month, the US Conference of Mayors released their 23rd annual report on hunger and homelessness (27 city survey). Something we should all be alarmed about is that the report shows on average a 26 percent increase in hunger this year over last year. While individual homelessness declined, family homelessness continues to rise as noted in the report’s executive summary:
This report presents the results of a survey of the 27 cities that 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 October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009.
- A sharp increase in the need for hunger assistance over the past year. On average, cities reported a 26 percent increase in the demand for assistance, the largest average increase since 1991.
- An increase in requests from middle class households that used to donate to food pantries, as well as increases in requests from families and from people who are uninsured, elderly, working poor, or homeless. People also are visiting food pantries and emergency kitchens more often.
- A large increase in the amount of food distributed over the past year was driven by both increased supply — federal assistance from the stimulus package — and increased need. Growing demand has caused food banks to distribute more and stockpile less.
- Despite the recession, 16 cities, 64 percent of respondents, reported a leveling or decrease in the number of homeless individuals over the past year. This is an indication of the success of policies aimed at ending chronic homelessness among single adults with disabilities.
- Nineteen cities, 76 percent of respondents, reported an increase in family homelessness. Cities attributed the increase in family homelessness to the recession and a lack of affordable housing.
- Only ten cities reported having homeless ‘tent cities’ or other large homeless encampments and even within these cities they account for a very small percentage of people who are homeless.
- Eighteen cities, 72 percent of respondents, reported that the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), funded through the stimulus, will ‘fundamentally change the way [their] community provides services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness’. Cities are using HPRP funding to develop central intake systems for homeless services, coordinate services more closely with surrounding areas, or offer homeless prevention assistance for the first time.[Full Report]