I came across this report about homelessness in America (2004) and thought it might be of interest ... as something God may be leading the church of Chicagoland to address. Here is a summary and the link to the entire report...
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4Him, Pastor Donald Moy, Chinese Church of Chicago
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To assess the status of hunger and homelessness in America’s cities during 2004, The U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed 27 major cities whose mayors were members of its Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness. The survey sought information and estimates from each city on 1) the demand for emergency food assistance and emergency shelter and the capacity of local agencies to meet that demand; 2) the causes of hunger and homelessness and the demographics of the populations experiencing these problems; 3) exemplary programs or efforts in the cities to respond to hunger and homelessness; 4) the availability of affordable housing for low income people; and 5) the outlook for the future and the impact of the economy on hunger and homelessness.
Among the findings of the 27-city survey:
Officials in the survey cities estimate that during the past year requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 14 percent, with 96 percent of the cities registering an increase. Requests for food assistance by families with children increased by an average of 13 percent. Requests for emergency food assistance by elderly persons increased by an average of 12 percent during the last year, with 72 percent of the cities reporting an increase.
On average, 20 percent of the requests for emergency food assistance are estimated to have gone unmet during the last year. For families alone, 17 percent of the requests for assistance are estimated to have gone unmet. In 48 percent of the cities, emergency food assistance facilities may have to turn away people in need due to lack of resources.
Fifty-six percent of the people requesting emergency food assistance were members of families – children and their parents. Thirty-four percent of the adults requesting food assistance were employed.
The overall level of resources available to emergency food assistance facilities increased by 18 percent during the last year in the cities registering an increase. Forty-four percent of the survey cities reported that emergency food assistance facilities are able to provide an adequate quantity of food. Sixty-seven percent of the cities’ emergency food assistance facilities have had to decrease the number of bags of food provided and/or the number of times people can receive food. Of these cities, 63 percent have had to increase the limit of food provided. Eighty-one percent of the survey cities reported that the food provided is nutritionally balanced.
In 100 percent of the cities, families and individuals relied on emergency food assistance facilities both in emergencies and as a steady source of food over long periods of time.
Unemployment and other employment-related problems lead the list of causes of hunger identified by the city officials. Other causes cited, in order of frequency, include lowpaying jobs, high housing costs, poverty or lack of income, medical or health costs, substance abuse, high utility costs, mental health problems, homelessness, reduced public benefits and high childcare costs.
During the past year, requests for emergency shelter increased in the survey cities by an average of 6 percent, with 70 percent of the cities registering an increase. Requests for shelter by homeless families alone increased by 7 percent, with 78 percent of the cities reporting an increase.
An average of 23 percent of the requests for emergency shelter by homeless people overall and 32 percent of the requests by homeless families alone are estimated to have gone unmet during the last year. In 81 percent of the cities, emergency shelters may have to turn away homeless families due to lack of resources; in 81 percent they may also have to turn away other homeless people.
People remain homeless an average of eight months in the survey cities. Forty-six percent of the cities said that the length of time people were homeless increased during the last year.
Lack of affordable housing leads the list of causes of homelessness identified by the city officials. Other causes cited, in order of frequency, include mental illness and the lack of needed services, substance abuse and the lack of needed services, low-paying jobs, unemployment, domestic violence, poverty, and prisoner re-entry.
Officials estimate that, on average, single men comprise of 41 percent of the homeless population, families with children-40 percent, single women-14 percent and unaccompanied youth- five percent. The homeless population is estimated to be 49 percent African-American, 35 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, two percent Native American and one percent Asian. An average of 23 percent of homeless people in the cities are considered mentally ill; 30 percent are substance abusers; 17 percent are employed; and 10 percent are veterans.
In 56 percent of the cities, families may have to break up in order to be sheltered. In 52 percent of the cities families may have to spend their daytime hours outside of the shelter they use at night.
Requests for assisted housing by low- income families and individuals increased in 68 percent of the cities during the last year. Thirty-two percent of eligible low-income households are currently served by assisted housing programs. City officials estimate that low- income households spend an average of 45 percent of their income on housing.
Applicants must wait an average of 20 months for public housing in the survey cities. The wait for Section 8 certificates is 30 months, and for Section 8 Vouchers it’s 35 months. Fifty- nine percent of the cities have stopped accepting applications for at least one assisted housing program due to the excessive length of the waiting list.
Officials in 88 percent of the responding cities expect requests for emergency food assistance to increase during 2005. Eighty- four percent expect that requests for emergency food assistance by families with children will increase during 2005. Officials in 88 percent of the cities expect that requests for emergency shelter will increase next year. Seventy-eight percent expect that requests by homeless families will increase.
Even with an improving economy, city officials believe that economic conditions will continue to have a negative impact on the problem of hunger and homelessness.
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