Hunger and Homelessness - A Status Update from the US Conference of Mayors

The report, updating the country on how we fare on taking care of America's hungry and homeless population, was released today by the United States Conference of Mayors.  The report surveys 22 cities on the extent and causes of homelessness, in addition to both the demand for services and the resources available.

The findings are nothing short of heartbreaking.  And in short, we must do more.

Some of the key data points include:

Sixty-six percent of the survey cities reported that the number of requests for emergency food assistance increased over the past year. Across the survey cities, emergency food assistance increased by an average of 2.8 percent.

Low-wages led the list of causes of hunger cited by the survey cities, followed by poverty, and high housing costs.

Across the survey cities, 23 percent of the demand for emergency food assistance is estimated to have been unmet.

In 47 percent of the responding cities, the emergency kitchens and food pantries had to reduce the quantity of food persons could receive at each food pantry visit or the amount of food offered per meal at emergency kitchens. In 57 percent of the cities, they had to reduce the number of times a person or family could visit a food pantry each month. Also in 57 percent of the cities, facilities had to turn away people because of lack of resources.

Over the past year, the total number of homeless persons increased across the survey cities by an average of 1.6 percent, with 58 percent of the survey cities reporting an increase, and 42 percent reporting a decrease.

Over the past year, the total number of homeless persons increased across the survey cities by an average of 1.6 percent, with 58 percent of the survey cities reporting an increase, and 42 percent reporting a decrease.

The number of unaccompanied individuals experiencing homelessness over the past year increased across the survey cities by an average of 1.7 percent, with 43 of the cities reporting a decrease, 43 percent reporting an increase, and 13 percent saying the number stayed the same.

The survey cities reported that on average, 29 percent of homeless adults were severely mentally ill, 22 percent were physically disabled, 18 percent were employed, 17 percent were victims of domestic violence, 12 percent were veterans, and 4 percent were HIV Positive.

The report also compares cities to each other.  As one public radio story out of Los Angeles notes, 39 percent of those looking for shelter in Los Angeles couldn't find it. 

The promising statistics are few and far between yet the programs and initiatives underway stretch from coast to coast and represent the diverse and innovative ways of thinking about solutions to hunger.  Check out the report, and keep up the good work those of you on the front lines..