Dec. 20, 2005 – A the US grows richer as a nation each year, the number of people needing food and shelter likewise continues to grow. Despite claims of an improved economy, the number of hungry and homeless residents rose over the past year, according to the annual US Conference of Mayors report. The news affirms previous studies by a variety of groups and shows a trend documented by the annual study since its 1982 inception.
The study, released yesterday, measured reports of emergency food and housing assistance in 24 cities and utilized supplemental information from the US Census and Department of Labor. The study reported that demand increased for many vital services and that most cities are unable to meet the needs of their worst-off residents.
According to the survey, food-aid requests grew by an estimated 12 percent over the past year while resources available to food banks and other aid centers grew by only about 7 percent. Service providers estimated that 18 percent of requests went unmet. Over three-quarters of the surveyed cities reported increases in demand, especially among families.
City governments spent almost $34 million combined on food-assistance efforts for the 2005 fiscal year. At almost $7.2 million, Boston put the most toward such efforts, utilizing block grants, state money and local funds.
Housing needs followed a similar trend, with a majority of cities reporting an increase in demand for emergency shelter, with many of the requests going unmet due to a lack of resources. In total, cities used over $420 million on emergency shelter last year, with San Francisco topping the list at $76 million.
In addition, a majority of cities included in the survey said the average amount of time people were homeless increased over the past year to seven months.
Aid-seekers cited a number of causes for their situation, the report noted, including lack of affordable housing, mental illness, protracted joblessness, drug addiction, domestic disputes and re-entering society after incarceration.
The report also found that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita adversely affected surveyed cities, including relatively distant Northeastern, Upper-Midwest and West Coast cities.