December 12, 2001

Hunger and Homelessness Up Sharply in Major U.S. Cities
Conference of Mayors’ 27-City Survey Finds Weak U.S. Economy Means More People in Need

Washington, DC -- Hunger and homelessness rose sharply in major American cities over the last year, according to a new survey released today by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Requests for emergency food assistance climbed an average of 23 percent and requests for emergency shelter assistance increased an average of 13 percent in the 27 cities surveyed.

Download the Report
  • Full Report (400k)
  • Summary (12k)
  • Hunger (84k)
  • Homelessness (125k)
  • Housing (20k)
  • Outlook (30k)

  • Please contact Andrew Solomon for a video of the press conference.
  • “This survey underscores the real impact of the economic slowdown on real people,” said New Orleans Mayor and Conference President Marc Morial, who announced the results at a Washington press conference with Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. “During this holiday season, I urge all Americans to recognize their obligation to help those in need.”

    The 17th annual report found an increase in requests for emergency food assistance in 25 of the 27 cities surveyed. There was no change in the other two cities. The average increase reported in emergency food assistance requests was 23 percent. The largest increases were reported in Santa Monica (50 percent), Phoenix (44 percent), Charlotte (42 percent), Salt Lake City (35 percent), and Portland, Oregon (34 percent).

    Over the same period, resources available for emergency food assistance failed to keep up with demand in most cities, increasing only 12 percent. Overall, resources - food and volunteers - increased in 38 percent of the cities surveyed, decreased in 42 percent of cities, and stayed the same in 19 percent of cities. Only one-third of cities reported that they were able to provide an adequate quantity of food. Eighty-five percent of the cities surveyed reported that emergency food assistance facilities have had to decrease the quantity of food provided and/or the number of times families or individuals can come to get food.

    “Hunger remains a very real problem in America and that problem has gotten worse over the past four years,” said Robert Forney, President and CEO of America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest hunger-relief charity.

    The survey also found that 19 cities reported increases in requests for emergency shelter compared to last year. The increases averaged 13 percent and were sharpest in Trenton (26 percent), Kansas City (25 percent), Chicago (22 percent), and Denver (20 percent). Requests for emergency shelter actually declined by five percent in Philadelphia and St. Louis. Across the cities surveyed, the number of emergency shelter beds for homeless people rose nine percent.

    Citing the impact of September 11 and the current recession, all of the cities participating in the survey predicted that both food assistance and shelter assistance requests will increase again in 2002.

    The survey, available on the web at, also provides information on what cities consider to be the causes of hunger and homelessness, the demographics of these populations, and model programs that respond to these problems.

    The 27 cities that responded to the survey comprise the membership of the Conference’s Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness and include Boston, Burlington, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Providence, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Monica, Seattle, St. Louis, St. Paul, Trenton and Washington, D.C.

    Andy Solomon (202) 861-6766


    ©2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors