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Ask The Mayor: Is Homelessness Getting Worse?

By | Dec 22, 2014

Andy_Griffith_Ken_Berry_Mayberry_RFD_1968If you were to ask the mayor of Mayberry, North Carolina if his town has homelessness and hunger, I’m sure his answer would be accurate. He would say, “There is no homelessness.”

However, it might be hard to contact him since Mayberry is actually a fictional town from Andy Griffith’s 1960’s television show. Television shows at that time usually painted picturesque portraits of small town life. Homelessness did not exist in this alternate universe.

But in today’s world, most mayors of real cities would have an accurate pulse on the state of homelessness in their municipalities.

In fact, if I wanted a realistic number on how many people are actually homeless, I would probably poll our mayors.

Why? Ask homeless advocates, and they would most likely lean toward too high of a figure. Ask federal officials, and they would provide a lesser-than-accurate number that makes their policies look better.

Ask a mayor? Sure… this elected official would want to paint a positive picture. But mayors are more accountable to their local constituency. If 100 people are living in a nearby park, the mayor could not say that homelessness is a minor issue just to make the Chamber of Commerce happy. The voters would revolt.

Actually, many mayors have made uncovering homelessness in their cities a priority. For instance, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has created an annual assessment of hunger and homelessness in American cities.

This year’s report does not paint a rosy picture. 

Despite what others say about a reduction in homelessness across the country—

of the 25 cities that were surveyed, 43 percent reported an increase and 22 percent stated that homelessness neither increased nor decreased. According to these mayors, overall homelessness increased by an average of 1 percent.

These results are far from the idealistic – albeit, fictional – picture perfect town of Mayberry. The issues that today’s mayors face do not reflect fictional television. Poverty and homelessness are real situations, which families and adults in every U.S. city experience on a daily basis.

Mayors cannot stick their head in the sand and wish these dire situations away.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors report is encouraging because it has our cities’ leaders publicly acknowledging the problem of homelessness in their municipalities.

We all know that affordable housing and living wage jobs keep people off the streets. Now that cities know they have a problem, it will take political courage to embrace and invest in solutions.

3 Comments

  1. Posted Feb 6, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I must admit that I don't see a noticeable improvement of this situation, especially when crossing the street and observe the impressive number of people who have nowhere to live, or what to eat every day. I feel sorry for this situation, and I've always maintained that when I will manage to make enough money, I will definitely build a shelter for these people in need.

  2. Posted Feb 19, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    We are living sad and hard times. Even from my humble perspective and from what I can see around me, I can say this problem is getting bigger. I feel like every year I see more poverty and more people living on the streets. It's a very dark picture.

  3. Posted Mar 10, 2015 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I bet these numbers are gracious. We're never getting the real numbers. I used to be middle class but I've had conversation with a few of my friends about life / home backup plans. Thanks.