U.S. Conference of Mayors Releases 2011 Hunger and Homelessness Survey
On December 15, 2011, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently released the 2011 Hunger and Homelessness Survey which covers twenty-nine (29) major U.S. cities including 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.
According to report findings, all but four of the survey cities noted that requests for emergency food assistance increased over the past year by an average of 15 percent. And among those requesting food assistance, cities noted that even those with jobs are going hungry:
51 percent of those requesting assistance were families,
26 percent were employed,
19 percent were elderly and
11 percent were homeless.
Among the key findings were:
When asked for suggestions to reduce hunger in America’s cities, respondents said that providing more affordable housing, increasing food stamp benefits and expanding employment-training programs would be viable solutions.
In the area of homelessness, 42% of the cities reported an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness by an average of 7%. Among families, the number experiencing homelessness increased by an average of 15% with 58%of the survey cities reporting an increase.
Once again, unemployment led the list of causes of homeless families. This was followed by lack of affordable housing and by poverty. Unemployment also led the list of causes of homelessness among individuals, followed by lack of affordable housing, mental illness and lack of needed services, and substance abuse and lack of needed services.
When asked for suggestions to combat homelessness, respondents called for providing more mainstream assisted housing, rather than shelters. They also called for more permanent housing for people with disabilities and more or better-paying employment opportunities.
The lack of resources is a critical problem. Because no beds were available, emergency shelters in 2/3 of the survey cities reported turning away homeless families with children; shelters in 70% of the cities reported turning away unaccompanied individuals. In considering the outlook for next year, officials were not optimistic:
those in 64 % of the surveyed cities expect the number of homeless families to increase, and
those in 55 % of the cities expect the number of homeless individuals to increase.
And while officials expect number of homeless people to grow, no survey city expects the resources to provide emergency shelter to increase over the next year.
In his December 18, 2011, Huffington Postblog post, Joel John Roberts, “10 Reasons Homelessness Could Increase In 2012” references this report and increase in homelessness that was found at the local level in the report’s cities. He contrasts this increase with the 2% decrease in homelessness that national leaders found through the 2011 Point in Time Count results.
Roberts highlights the initiatives and best practices such as federal homeless prevention programs and national initiatives to end veterans homelessness that made a difference this year but then goes on to list the ten ways that he sees that homelessness could increase in 2012.