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    G. Morgan, Dec 24, 2010
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    By Joseph Picard | December 22, 2010 12:05 PM EST

    With the Great Recession continuing to take a toll on America's
    middle class, it should come as no surprise that homelessness and
    hunger remain tough problems for America's cities, as the annual
    report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors points out.
    View Full Image

    A makeshift homeless persons structure is seen in Detroit

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    In the 2010 Hunger and Homelessness Survey, 27 large and medium
    sized cities throughout the nation were studied and the report
    found that homelessness increased by 2 percent across surveyed
    cities and family homelessness increased by 9 percent.

    According to the mayors' conference, every city surveyed reported
    that requests for emergency food assistance increased by an
    average of 24 percent over the past year. Among those requesting
    emergency food service, 56 percent were families and 30 percent
    were employed. When asked to report on the three main causes of
    hunger, respondents cited unemployment, housing costs and low

    "While there is currently an historic effort to restore America's
    economy, the effects of hunger and homelessness are clearly
    evident in America's cities and urban centers. This is why mayors
    have been so proactive in supporting and encouraging local food
    programs and why federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition
    Assistance Program -- food stamps-- are so critical," said
    Asheville, NC Mayor Terry Bellamy, chair of the USCM Hunger and
    Homelessness Task Force.

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    Cities most frequently cited increasing demand and decreasing
    resources, particularly related to federal and state budget
    problems, as the biggest challenge to addressing hunger in the
    coming year, Bellamy said.

    "This year's survey makes it clear that even working families are
    increasingly at risk for hunger and homelessness as a result of
    the crippled economy and rising unemployment. As mayors, it is our
    responsibility to create effective local programs and strengthen
    federal partnerships to help those in need," said Los Angeles
    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

    Los Angeles was the largest city surveyed. Among the other cities
    surveyed, Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Dallas, San
    Francisco, Boston and Denver are among the 25 most populated in
    the nation. Only two of the cities surveyed - Gastonia, NC and
    Trenton, NJ - have populations under 100,000.

    According to the survey, for families, unemployment was the
    leading cause of homelessness, while for individuals, it was the
    lack of affordable housing.

    Across the surveyed cities, an average of 27 percent of homeless
    persons needing assistance did not receive it because of a lack of
    resources, the mayors found.

    At a time when a noted financial analyst, Meredith Whitney, is
    predicting that as many as 100 U.S. cities face default on their
    municipal bonds, the mayors conference is calling for federal
    help, as well as assistance from the private sector, to deal with
    immediate social problems.

    "Although the report surveys 27 cities, it mirrors what is
    happening nationally," said Burnsville, MN Mayor Elizabeth Kautz,
    who is the USCM president. "At a time when the poverty rate is at
    a record high, and in many cities unemployment is in
    double-digits, mayors cannot handle these challenges alone. We
    need all levels of government, as well as the private sector, to
    partner with us to assist growing numbers in our communities."

    U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan
    pointed to positive trends in the survey.

    Not only does the survey "show that homelessness is ticking back
    up in the wake of the economic crisis--echoing data we've seen
    about the increase in family homelessness--it also reveals how
    communities are using new tools like the Homelessness Prevention
    and Rapid Re-housing Program--or "HPRP"--to meet that increased
    need," Donovan said.

    Launched in early 2009 as part of President Obama's Recovery Act,
    "HPRP has prevented or ended homelessness for more than three
    quarters of a million people," Donovan said.

    He highlighted Cleveland's Continuum of Care program, that is
    "using HPRP funds to create a Central Intake system that provides
    more appropriate services to those entering the shelter system --
    helping the community not only manage the available beds and
    services more effectively but also ensure that households are
    finding permanent housing as quickly as possible."

    Becky Kanis, director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, indicated
    other examples of cities dealing with homelessness.

    "This year's survey contains good news and bad news about
    homelessness," Kanis said. "Tough economic times have contributed
    to a spike in homelessness in several cities, including an average
    increase in the number of homeless families. The good news is that
    many cities have been able to reduce homelessness in spite of the
    bad economy by focusing on permanent supportive housing."

    Kanis noted successful housing programs in Boston, Phoenix,
    Chicago and Denver.

    "The lesson of this report is housing, housing, housing," Kanis

    The survey also indicated ways cities are dealing with hunger.

    Examples of successful initiatives include providing needy
    children with back-packs filled with non-perishable food in
    Asheville; a program that matches food cupboards with local
    gardeners to provide participants with locally-grown fresh produce
    in Philadelphia; and a comprehensive program in Los Angeles to
    raise community awareness about food stamp benefits, help people
    to determine eligibility and assist individuals in navigating
    through the application process, according to the mayors report.

    The mayors conference survey is available here.
    (Photo: Reuters)
    A makeshift homeless persons structure is seen in Detroit

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    G. Morgan, Dec 24, 2010
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