As of midnight, Nov. 1, a drastic $40 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) went into effect, pushing millions of families to the brink of falling over what is being called the hunger cliff.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently reported family of three would see a $29 monthly cut in benefits. To some, especially for Austin’s and other West Side communities’ homeless, working poor and impoverished residents, this could be devastating.

These cuts are part of the dreaded sequester President Obama and the Republicans House of Representatives fought over at the start of Obama’s second term.

Prior to the cuts, benefits averaged about $1.50 per person, per meal. The average household benefit is about $275. With these cuts, a family of four will receive approximately $36 a month less. The cuts will also eliminate millions from the program.

Hunger often is a byproduct of homelessness, with Austin and other West Side communities having a disproportionate number of homeless people, this can escalate an already overwhelming situation.

In December 2012, in response to the United States Conference of Mayors’ survey on hunger and homelessness, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reported that of city’s population of 2.7 million people, 20.9 percent live below the poverty line. He also reported the median household income to be $46,877 with a metro unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. The monthly home foreclosure rate was reported as 1 in 365 units.

These figures are even bleaker for communities of color. The report also stated the request for emergency food assistance increased by 8 percent over the previous year. In addition to reducing the amount of food distributed to individuals, food pantries and kitchens had to turn away people due to a lack of resources.

The survey projected an increase in requests for food assistance and a modest decrease in resources. These projections were made without consideration of the SNAP cuts now in progress.

The reported causes of hunger were reported as low wages, lack of food stamps and poverty. The reported causes of homelessness for individuals and families with children included family disputes, unemployment and poverty.

Many of us know all too well what the causes of homelessness and hunger are. We either live it or know someone who is living it. In many ways, hunger is more intolerable than homelessness. It is difficult for a child to attend and thrive in school with the burden of homelessness and hunger on his or her shoulder.

The politicians, particularly, the Republican members of the House of Representatives, who are too many to name, need to stop holding America hostage and remember this is one nation under God, with justice and liberty for all.

They need to remember we are a democratic government built on the premise of “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

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