Menino Survey of Mayors

In January, Boston University released the 2021 results from the Menino Survey of Mayors, which provides insights into city leader’s opinions on housing and homelessness. This year’s report, which focused on homeless policy, included results from interviews with 126 mayors who lead cities with more than 75,000 residents.

A few highlights included in the report:

  • While 73% of those surveyed believed they were held highly accountable for responding to homeless issues in their communities, only 19% thought they actually had control over addressing the issue.
  • By far the biggest impediment to addressing homelessness was identified as limited funding (over 60%), with public opposition to new housing and shelters, limited human and social services, and lack of coordination between different governmental agencies and social services agencies also identified as barriers.
  • 28% had no staff dedicated to responding to homelessness and 22% placed the responsibility in the Police Department.
  • Many raised concerns about data, with only 38% of respondents having access to annual data.
  • 60% of those interviewed did not base their success on the goal of reducing homelessness in their community. Rather, 42% said they were successful if they moved people from the streets into housing, 16% highlighted access to services, and 11% said that success was measured by a reduction in the number of complaints received.

The report concluded by stating how important mayors are in ending homelessness, and recognizing the challenges they face with limited funding, opposition to new housing, and a fragmented delivery and response system. With homelessness continuing to rise, despite significant efforts, new approaches are needed to turn the tide.