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Many Phoenix poor go hungry

The Associated Press

• About 75 percent of families seeking aid are rejected, a report says.

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Three out of 4 family requests for emergency food are turned down in Phoenix – the highest rate among the 29 cities surveyed, a report says.

And 80 percent of those requesting such food baskets are employed, the highest percentage among all the surveyed cities.

”The perception is, we’re helping people who have nothing or who are not trying, and that is just not the case,” says Sandy Schimmel, communications director for St. Mary’s Food Bank.

Schimmel noted that only a last-minute appeal resulted in sufficient turkeys to meet Thanksgiving needs and said the outlook for Christmas is worse.

The survey, released Monday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, found that welfare reform, drug and alcohol abuse and joblessness are fueling an increasing demand for food and shelter.

The conference found that requests for emergency food assistance have increased 16 percent among the cities this year, the highest rate recorded since 1992.

Meanwhile, resources to meet those needs are not rising.

With welfare reforms pushing people away from government services and into often low-paying jobs, it’s left to charities to pick up the slack when family money runs out, Schimmel said.

Only Alexandria, Va., and Charlotte, N.C., reported that no food assistance request went unanswered.

”What we see this year is a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats – that there are some that aren’t seaworthy, others that leak and others that have persistent problems that require support,” said Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. of Charleston, S.C., head of the conference task force that compiled the survey data.

San Antonio reported it cannot fill 44 percent of all requests, the highest percentage of the cities participating. Phoenix was next with a 43 percent unmet need. Phoenix reported that families may receive emergency food baskets no more than six times per year.

The Conference of Mayors found that emergency shelter requests rose by the smallest percentage ever in the 13 years the conference has conducted the survey, 3 percent, but that the need still was great.

In Phoenix, there are 877 emergency beds for 1,800 needy families with children, and there are 3,300 shelter beds for the 6,000 to 8,000 homeless people needing them each night.

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