Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Annual Update on Hunger & Homelessness Released during Miami Cares Day

Photos by Jorge Perez/City of Miami

At this time of significant economic downturn, the issues of hunger and homelessness in America are more prevalent than ever. Cities are the front lines where these effects are first felt, which is why mayors have been proactive and have implemented local initiatives to combat hunger and homelessness in their communities. Miami Cares Day is a coordinated effort that our City has done for the past four years to address these very issues and take care of our most vulnerable residents.
The City of Miami Homeless Assistance Program, in conjunction with more than 20 community partners, provided free services today to more than 700 homeless individuals during the fourth annual Miami Cares Day on December 12. During the event, 513 meals were served and 118 homeless individuals were taken off the street in a single day, through shelter placement, residential treatment and relocation.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) also released results of its 2008 Hunger and Homelessness Report at a press conference during the Miami Cares event.
The USCM report reveals that on average, cities reported a 12 percent increase in homelessness from 2007 to 2008, with 16 cities citing an increase in the number of homeless families. The lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment were cited as the primary causes of homelessness for families. For individuals, the top three causes cited were substance abuse, affordable housing and mental illness. The lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment were cited as the primary causes of homelessness for families.
Only Los Angeles, Phoenix, Cleveland and Miami saw a decline. Miami saw a 16% decline from last year, and a 66% decline from 2003, the year we adopted our 10 year plan to reduce homelessness.
This year’s survey included a special focus on the demand for government subsidized housing and the effect of the foreclosure crisis on homelessness. Twelve cities (63) percent reported an increase in homelessness because of the foreclosure crisis.
The report shows that requests for emergency food assistance went up in nearly every city surveyed with the demand outpacing the supply in 20 cities. The Miami Indoor Meal Program served 150,000 meals last year.
December 18 update:
Today I received impressive numbers detailing the positive impact we had on Miami's homeless during Miami Cares Day:
250 volunteers were able to provide 743 people with 92 shelter placements, 47 haircuts, 136 showers and new clothes, 18 long distance phone calls to family and friends, 14 family re-unifications, 12 substance abuse treatment placements, 59 people were provided medical services, 40 mental health screenings were administered, 15 veterans affairs consultations were given, 33 legal service consultations were given, 38 permanent housing applications were filled and filed, 49 food stamps applications were filled and filed, 475 gift bags were handed out, 86 HIV/Hepatitis tests were administered, 81 people were provided with optical services, 88 Florida I.D.'s were issued, 21 people people were given manicures/pedicures, and 118 people were provided with some form of housing.
Thank you to all of the volunteers who made this possible!

To read the entire USCM 2008 Hunger and Homelessness Report, please visit www.usmayors.org.
Follow this link to hear my NPR interview about the report and homelessness.
- Manny