Mayors say hunger, homelessness growing
Cities want help coping with congressional cutsDecember 16, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Kyoko Altman
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. economy is growing steadily, but homelessness and hunger continue to increase as well, according to a report released Monday at a conference of the nation's mayors.
The new survey of 29 of the nation's largest cities paints a bleak picture. Mayors say their homeless populations have risen 5 percent over the last year, with children now more than a quarter of the total homeless population.
And more people are in need of emergency food -- an 11 percent increase over last year.
The mayors say their cities lack the resources to cope with the sweeping new changes in the welfare system, which turned control over to the states. And they blame Washington.
"They pass laws here in the Congress, they pass them in the states -- it all dwindles down to the city and they say, 'The mayors will take care of it,'" said Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.
In Denver, emergency shelters are already turning away people due to a lack of space. Chicago officials anticipate the same problem.
"What we have now will not be adequate, will not be enough, and there will be thousands of people out on the streets looking for places to stay," said Daniel Alvarez, Chicago's Commissioner for Human Services.
And it's not just the cities that are struggling to cope.
Catholic Charities USA, the nation's largest private service network, said contributions would have to more than double to make up for federal government cuts.
"We will do our best to reach out to them as we've tried to do over the last 15 years, but there is no way that we can make up for the cuts that have been put in place by the Congress," said the Rev. Fred Kammer, Catholic Charities president.
The report on homelessness comes as President Clinton is struggling to tighten his next budget.
His own housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, has complained that a White House proposal to cut a billion dollars from low-income housing could force more people into the streets.
"As Secretary of Housing, I do have to express alarm, signal the alarm if you will, that the potential for homelessness to grow is there," Cisneros said last week.
Clinton has promised to soften the impact of cuts in food stamps and immigrant assistance, saying last week he has set aside several billion dollars to "fix those problems."
The White House asserts that in the long run, a balanced budget helps the poor by ensuring an economy that generates new jobs. For now, the nation's mayors and charities are wondering what to do until then.
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