The nation’s cities are seeing a spike in demand for emergency shelter and food assistance, according to the 32nd annual hunger and homelessness report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The report, released on Thursday, is not comprehensive—it covers only 25 cities*—but it paints a portrait of the problems facing the poorest residents of the nation’s cities. Here’s a look at the report’s findings in 10 charts, broken into the following four categories:

Hunger in the last year
• Hunger in the year ahead
• Homelessness in the last year
• Homelessness in the year ahead

* The 25 cities are: Asheville, N.C., Boston, M.A., Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, I.L.; Cleveland, O.H.; Dallas, T.X.; Denver, C.O.; Des Moines, I.A.; Los Angeles, C.A.; Louisville, K.Y.; Memphis, T.N.; Nashville, T.N.; Norfolk, V.A.; Philadelphia, P.A.; Phoenix, A.Z.; Plano, T.X.; Providence, R.I.; Saint Paul, M.N.; Salt Lake City, U.T.; San Antonio, T.X.; San Francisco, C.A.; Santa Barbara, C.A.; Trenton, N.J.; and Washington, D.C.

Hunger in the last year

Cities reported spending $624 million to distribute 680 million pounds of food.

More than half of those requesting assistance were in families and 1 in 5 were elderly, according to the report.

The vast majority of cities reported seeing requests for emergency food assistance rise in the last year, while a fourth reported that such requests fell. One city said they stayed roughly the same.

In addition, 82 percent of cities reported that food pantries and emergency kitchens in the last year had to cut the amount of food distributed per visit. At the same time, 77 percent said kitchens and food pantries turned people away due to lack of resources and the same share reported food assistance providers reduced the number of monthly visits allowed.

Hunger in the year ahead


The vast majority of cities expect requests for emergency food assistance to rise in the year ahead, with 19 expecting a moderate increase and 2 expecting a substantial one. The remaining 4 cities expect the number of requests to hold steady.

Despite the expected rise in requests in most cities, only 16 percent expect to see more resources made available for emergency food assistance. Meanwhile, 44 percent expect resources to decline while 40 percent expect them to hold steady.

Homelessness in the last year

While the number of homeless individuals rose an average of 1 percent, that change was uneven across cities. Nearly half reported an increase, while a slightly smaller, yet sizable, share reported a decrease.

City officials reported that, on average, more than 1 in 4 homeless adults were mentally ill. More than 1 in 5 were disabled and more than 1 in 7 were victims of domestic abuse. Nearly 1 in 5 were employed and about 1 in 8 were veterans.


Nearly 3 in 4 cities said that shelters had to turn away families with children. More than a fifth of the demand of emergency shelter overall was reported to have gone unmet.

The number of families experiencing homelessness rose 3 percent. City officials blamed insufficient affordable housing as the main reason why families with children were homeless. That was followed by unemployment, poverty and low-paying jobs.

Homelessness in the year ahead

An equal share—30 percent—of cities expect the number of families dealing with homelessness to stay the same or decline in the year ahead. Yet a larger share, 39 percent, expect to see that number rise.

More than 2 in 3 cities expect resources for homelessness will remain the same in the year ahead. Only one expects to see them increase.