The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently released the 2007 Hunger and Homelessness Survey which covers 23 major U.S. cities includign Trenton, NJ. This survey collects information on emergency food assistance, emergency shelter and transitional housing, the cities’ capacity to meet demand, and causes cited for hunger and homelessness in each of the surveyed cities. The major findings of the report are that, among the 21 cities that supplied data, persons in families with children constitute 23 percent of persons using emergency shelter or transitional housing, down from 30 percent last year. Approximately 76 percent were single individuals and 1 percent were unaccompanied youth.
When citing causes for homelessness, the reasons listed for persons in families differed greatly from those given for individuals. For families, affordable housing, poverty, and domestic violence were the three main reasons given by the 23 cities. The reasons listed for singles were most commonly disabilities such as mental illness or substance abuse.
A majority of the cities (80 percent) surveyed in the study reported that requests for emergency food assistance increased during the last year and 82 percent expect the need for food assistance to increase in 2008. Cities reported that the top three causes of hunger were high housing costs, poverty, and unemployment. The most commonly cited way to reduce hunger was “through building more affordable housing.”
As the authors of the report note, the findings in this study should be used carefully as it is considered a survey of a sample of cities and not necessarily nationally representative. Each city used different methods to respond to the questionnaire, including using administrative databases, client-level tracking systems, and extrapolation from other studies.