Homelessness and hunger are spreading across America, according to a survey which looked at 25 big cities, including LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington; 21 percent of the demand for food assistance hasn’t been met during the past year.
Last year’s national poverty rate of 15 percent hovered near the Great Recession’s staggering record of 15 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Although the US stock market has surpassed its pre-recession high, poor residents of some major American cities have not gained from the country’s economic wins, the new report has shown. The number of people in the poverty trap went up from 46.2 million in 2011 to 46.5 million in 2012. These figures remained slightly changed from 2010 when the number of poor people reached the highest level in the more than half-century that poverty estimates have been published. The poverty rate in 2012 was 2.5 percentage points higher than that reported in 2007, the year before the economic recession.
Over 80 percent of US cities reported that requests for emergency food assistance had increased by an average of 7 percent over the past year. The rate of increase ranged from 15 percent in Salt Lake City, 12 percent in Washington DC, 11 percent in Dallas, and 10 percent in Charlotte and Trenton, to 5 percent in Cleveland and 4 percent in Louisville.
Unemployment tops the list of causes of hunger cited by the survey cities, followed by low wages, poverty, and high housing costs.
The latest study conducted by the US Conference of Mayors has shown that among those requesting emergency food assistance nearly 60 percent were people in families; 43 percent were employed, 21 percent were elderly, and 9 percent were homeless. Emergency shelters in 71 percent of the survey cities had to turn away homeless families with children because no beds were available, while in two-thirds of the cities shelters had to turn away single people.
Over 90 percent of the surveyed cities reported an increase in the number of people requesting food assistance for the first time. However, it turned out that more than 20 percent of the people desperately needing emergency food assistance did not receive it.
In all of the responding cities, emergency kitchens had to reduce the quantity of food poverty-stricken people could receive at each visit or the amount of food offered per meal. In 78 percent of these cities, officials also had to cut down the number of times a person or family could visit a food kitchen each month. In two-thirds of the cities, facilities had to send people away due to a lack of resources, according to the report.