Major cities, including Cleveland, expect ongoing issues over hunger and homelessness, study says


CLEVELAND, Ohio – December 16, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — Requests for emergency food is expected to increase over the next year in several metropolitan areas, while meeting those needs could continue to fall short, says a task force of some U.S. cities, including Cleveland.

The findings are from the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Status on Hunger and Homelessness report released Thursday. Twenty-five cities with populations of 30,000 or more were surveyed.

The survey found that a majority of the 25 cities — 84 percent — expect food assistance requests to be substantial in the coming year. In Cleveland, city officials expect requests for food assistance to increase moderately, and resources to provide food assistance to continue at about the same level.

As for homelessness, 39 percent of the cities surveyed expect the number of homeless families to increase moderately next year. Thirty percent of the respondents said they expect homelessness to remain at about the same level, and 30 percent say they expect homelessness to decrease modestly.

Because a small number of cities participated in the survey, the report should not be interpreted as a national report on the problems of hunger and homelessness, survey authors said.

From September 1, 2013 to September 1, 2014 — the time period covered in the report — Cleveland saw requests for emergency food assistance jump 8 percent. For that same period, the number of homeless families crept upwards by 14 percent.

There’s no question that the nation’s economy is on the mend, Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the Conference of Mayors, said during a conference call Thursday. “But there’s also no question that the slow pace of the recovery in past years has made it difficult – and, for many of our cities, impossible – to respond to the growing needs of hungry and homeless Americans.”

The Conference of Mayors survey showed that nationally:

Seventy-one percent of surveyed cities reported that requests for emergency food assistance increased since the 2013 report.
Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 56 percent were persons in families, 38 percent were employed, 20.5 percent were elderly and 7 percent were homeless.
Low wages led the list of causes of hunger, followed by poverty, unemployment and high housing costs.
As for homelessness, the number of families experiencing homelessness increased by an average of 3 percent. Some cities — 35 percent — reported a decrease while others — 22 percent — said the number stayed the same.

Officials in the survey cities outlined measures being taken to alleviate hunger and homeless.

Cleveland respondents said that in the last three years, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank has increased its outreach program to a current staff of 15 to get more people signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The food bank also has added a Help Center to assist people in signing up for SNAP over the phone. Outreach workers fan out to pantries, hot meal programs, libraries, bus stations and community centers to find people in need.

“To some extent this has helped relieve some of the burden on food pantry programs,” said Karen Pozna, communications director for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Numbers from the 2013 survey showed that the food bank had submitted 9,825 SNAP applications. This year’s survey results put the number of SNAP applications at 12,494.

As for Cleveland programs to alleviate homelessness, for several years Cleveland has been a partner in Housing First Initiative, a local effort to eliminate chronic homelessness.

In September, the coalition opened Buckeye Square, an $11 million building with 65 furnished and subsidized studio apartments. That made it the ninth building opened by Housing First, a coalition of more than 40 private and public organizations. With the expected opening next year of a 10th building in the Detroit-Shoreway, Housing First will be more than halfway to its goal of building 1,271 units for chronically homeless individuals.

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