A recent survey released by a University of Wisconsin student organization highlighting issues of homelessness and hunger in the United States is attempting to call such issues to the attention of President George W. Bush and Congress.
The survey, titled “Communities in Crisis: A Survey of Hunger and Homelessness in America,” was conducted by the Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, which is a part of WISPIRG.
“The purpose of the study was not only to get the statistics, but also to get in touch with the Bush administration and let them know how many people are actually being affected by the recent budget cuts in these areas,” WISPIRG intern Jordan Lindenmeyer said.
The “Communities in Crisis” group surveyed 900 emergency food and shelter providers in 426 cities and suburbs of varying size in 32 states.
In Wisconsin, 71 percent of these agencies have had an increased demand for food and 57 percent experienced an increased demand for shelter, according to the study.
Although many agencies have felt the effects of budget cuts, the Salvation Armies of Dane County have not experienced a significant problem.
“We’ve turned away less people this year. The county went from allowing a 30-day stay to allowing a 90-day stay so [homeless people] are more stable when they leave,” Maj. Paul Moore, Dane County coordinator for the Salvation Army, said.
One possible explanation for the decrease in the number of people they have to turn away, according to Moore, is that homeless people think the shelter may be too full, which results in fewer trying to enter in the first place.
Regardless of study results, Lindenmeyer said the 81 percent of Wisconsin agencies that have to turn people away is “staggering,” especially in such a cold climate.
Lindenmeyer said WISPIRG hopes the Bush administration will look at the results of the survey and realize they need to make a change.
“We want them to halt all funding cuts on these programs,” said Lindenmeyer.
Student Coordinator of the Hunger and Homelessness Campaign Megan Sveum said she is also concerned.
“I think people need to realize what a big deal it is. The problem is only going to get worse and we can only do so much with volunteering and donations. The government has to step in sometime,” Sveum said. “We really want to raise awareness on the issue.”
WISPIRG is planning a Hunger Cleanup in April for any students willing to volunteer in Madison-area shelters.
Plans for the Hunger Cleanup are still in the development stages and are not yet finalized.