National report finds cities, including St. Paul, struggle with hunger and homelessness

A report released this week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says the demand for emergency food and housing in 25 cities, including St. Paul, continues to grow, even as economic conditions seem to be improving.

Continued high unemployment is the top reason for hunger, officials in the 25 cities said. Unemployment was also cited as the top reason for individuals to be homeless, while poverty was the top reason for homelessness of families with children.

St. Paul was among the cities studies because Mayor Chris Coleman is a member of the Conference’s Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness.

Conference Executive Director Tom Cochran said:

“We’re pleased, of course, that the unemployment rate has continued to drop during 2013 but there are still too many unemployed workers in our cities, and this continues to add to the stress on emergency assistance programs.

“There’s no question that the nation’s economy is on the mend, but there’s also no question that the slow pace of recovery is making it difficult — and, for many, impossible to respond to the growing needs of the hungry and the homeless.”

Looking specifically at St. Paul’s efforts on hunger and homelessness, the report says:

The City continues to support Heading Home Ramsey — Plan to End Homelessness, which established goals to provide housing to chronic long-term homeless residents as well as develop systemic service delivery changes. Between 2005 and 2010, the City and its housing partners successfully created 894 permanent supportive housing units by financing capital developments, providing an operating subsidy, and securing rental assistance for long-term homeless residents of Ramsey County. More than 75 percent of these units are located in the City.
 
Having achieved the original Heading Home Ramsey housing production goals, the City continues to finance affordable housing and permanent supportive housing using a variety of funds, including CDBG, HOME, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency financing. The City honors its commitment to developing affordable housing citywide – especially during the current difficult economic times. Strong working partnerships exist with Ramsey County and 25 community agencies to provide comprehensive services that address the needs of homeless citizens. During 2012 and 2013, the City and its community partners worked together to develop new systemic protocols, such as coordinated assessment, and new protocols for Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). At the same time, in response to a community need, the City allocated some ESG funds for rapid re-housing services to assist medically-compromised citizens who reside in the adult emergency shelter.

 This fall, the Mayor challenged Saint Paul community leaders to analyze homelessness in order to develop guiding principles for a new community response that can address the needs of homeless single adults with dignity. And in another exemplary effort, Health Care for the Homeless continues to serve approximately 3,500 unduplicated homeless residents annually in emergency shelters and drop-in centers.

The other 24 cities studied are:

Asheville, N.C.; Boston; Charleston; Charlotte; Chicago; Cleveland Dallas; Denver, CO; Des Moines; Los Angeles; Louisville; Memphis; Nashville; Norfolk, Va; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Plano, Texas; Providence, R.I.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio; San Francisco, Santa Barbara; Trenton, N.J.; and Washington, D.C.

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