15th Annual Survey Hunger and Homelessness Continue to Rise in America's Cities
By Eugene T. Lowe
Secretary Dan Glickman joined Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, Chair of
the Conference of Mayors Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness, Providence
Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr., Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic and HUD
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Fred Karnas in
releasing the U.S Conference of Mayors 15th Annual Survey on hunger and
homelessness December 16. The survey, A Status Report on Hunger and
Homelessness in America's Cities, 1999, found that the demand for
emergency food assistance grew last year at the highest level since 1992,
and the demand for emergency shelter grew at the highest level since 1994.
his opening remarks, Mayor Clavelle set the background of the survey. He
said: "This is the 15th year we have published a survey report on the
growth of hunger and homelessness in the cities that make up our Task
Force on Hunger and Homelessness. Last year when I presented this survey,
I reported that the problems of hunger and homelessness were still with
us, as they have been year after year.
is amazing to us that the problems of hunger and homelessness continue to
demand our immediate attention. Usually, task forces at the Conference of
Mayors exist for no more than three to four years at the longest as they
are created to respond to immediate problems. But the task force on hunger
and homelessness has been in existence for fifteen years, by far the
longest existing task force in the history of the Conference of
the major findings of the survey, Mayor Clavelle continued: " In
1999, as in every year that we have conducted our survey, overall demand
for both emergency food and shelter increased for most of the survey
said that, while so many mayors and others make an extra effort during the
holidays to feed the poor, many must go hungry year round. "This
year, 21 percent of the requests for food are estimated to have gone
unmet, which is the same as last year's finding, which was the highest
rate since 1992. Slightly more than half of the cities say that they may
have to turn away people in need because of lack of resources, a seven
percent increase over last year's finding," Clavelle said.
our nation's unprecedented prosperity is not reaching a lot of our own.
Driving the increased food problems are low-paying jobs, unemployment,
high housing costs, poverty, substance abuse and changes in the food
stamps program," Clavelle told the media.
his remarks, Agriculture Secretary Glickman announced a partnership
between USDA and the Conference of Mayors to ensure that more of the
nation's 36 million Americans who are hungry or on the brink of hunger can
access food stamps. The Secretary said: "With the best economy in
years, there is no reason that millions of Americans - children, the
working poor, the elderly, legal immigrants - have to struggle to put food
on the table. Far too many people eligible for food stamps have not been
taking advantage of this program."
Glickman's partnership with the Conference of Mayors is designed to
address the decline in food stamp rolls by nearly 10 million people since
1995. According to a press statement of the Department of Agriculture,
"the decline is due, in large part, to the robust U.S. economy and
the 1996 welfare law. However, food stamp participation has declined three
times faster than poverty, indicating that there are many people eligible
for food stamps who may be living without sufficient food."
the partnership with the Agriculture Department, Mayor Clavelle said:
"The U.S. Conference of Mayor will work with USDA to reach
communities and individuals in need by expanding local outreach networks
and distributing food stamp educational materials."
The Department of Agriculture and the Conference of Mayors will
develop strategies on food stamp public education efforts and to implement
local action plans to reach more eligible food stamp participants.
Mayor Cianci said of the survey, "While so many of us make an extra
effort to feed the poor during the holiday season, we quickly forget that
the poor must eat year round. It is stunning that this study shows that so
many people here in the United States are turned away and must go
his remarks, Mayor Cianci also announced a petition drive that cities are
participating in which calls on Congress to end hunger in America. The
drive is being sponsored by Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn
Feinstein. The ten cities with the greatest percentage of signers from
their local population by February 29, 2000 will each receive a donation
from the Alan Shawn Feinstein Foundation of $5,0000 to support local
hunger programs. The twenty runner-up cities will each receive $1,000.
Mayor Donald Plusquellic said, "The time for attacking the poor and
blaming the poor is over. It's time we devoted some of the budget surplus
to those who are not benefitting and indeed may be suffering as a result
of the booming stock market."
Deputy Assistant Secretary Fred Karnas said that the survey underscored
the importance of the Clinton Administration's Continuum of Care policy as
a tool for collaborative and comprehensive community planning to address
the issue of homelessness.
to a HUD press release, "Secretary Andrew Cuomo said the USCM survey
supports the conclusions of report on homelessness that was released by
HUD last week. Last week's report said that when homeless people get
housing assistance and needed services - such as health care, substance
abuse treatment, mental health services, education and job training - 76%
of those living in families and 60% of those living alone end their
homeless status and move to an improved living situation after completion
of the assistance program."
seeing the survey, Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb
said, "This report confirms the unfortunate and sadly ironic effect
that prosperity has on the poor in cities. Our good economy has simply
driven up housing costs and reduced the supply of affordable housing -
putting many people on the streets and into shelters."