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Survey of 29 Cities by the U

December 15, 1997

Survey of 29 Cities by the U.S. Conference of Mayors Finds Demand for Emergency Food and Shelter Is on the Rise Despite Booming Economy

One positive note struck in the study released today was that requests for emergency housing rose this year by just 3 percent, the smallest increase in the survey’s 13-year history.

However, demand for emergency food rose an average of 16 percent, the largest increase since 1992. Low wages and high housing costs were among the factors cited for the surge in grocery requests. Nearly all the cities expected demand for food and shelter to rise next year.

The study, based on self-reporting by the cities that varied widely in detail, found:

_Emergency food assistance requests increased in 24 of the 29 cities surveyed.

_About one-fifth of emergency food requests were estimated to have gone unfulfilled. Only Alexandria, Va., and Charlotte, N.C., reported that no food assistance request went unanswered.

_Seventeen of the cities saw shelter requests rise, while the number of emergency shelter beds among all the cities decreased an average of 3 percent.

One city where officials said the housing situation improved was Charleston, S.C. Officials there reported a 23 percent reduction in shelter demand by single adults ``due to good success in providing an array of services in an accessible location ... to reduce the number of revolving-door homeless people in the Charleston area.″

More common, however, are tales of reduced bed spaces and tougher eligibility requirements.

``Admission criteria to emergency shelter has been tightened, and the word is out that emergency shelter is not an option that a needy person can depend on,″ St. Paul, Minn., officials reported. ``So many do not ask.″

Of the homeless population, about 47 percent are single men, 36 percent families with children, 14 percent single women and 4 percent minors, the survey found.

Other cities surveyed were: Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Denver; Detroit, Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Miami; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; Norfolk, Va.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Providence, R.I.; St. Louis; Salt Lake City; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Santa Monica, Calif.; Seattle and Trenton, N.J.

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