Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse, Mental Illness Top Causes of Homelessness

New Utah Foundation LogoDomestic violence ranks high on the list of reasons Utahns become homeless, nearly as significant a cause as substance abuse and mental illness.

More than half of the Utah voters surveyed as part of the Utah Priorities Project (53%) gave homelessness and poverty a high level of concern, ranking it four or five on a five-point scale. The issue ranked 9th among the Project’s top ten issues of concern.

Other facts included in the research brief: The total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Utah has been declining, based on the annual point-in-time count conducted each January. While successful efforts have been made to address the needs of the chronically homeless, agencies such as the Road Home have been providing services to an increasing number of families. More than two-thirds (70.1%) of those experiencing homelessness in Utah are in Salt Lake County.

“Poverty, of course, is a much broader social concern for everyone in Utah,” said Utah Foundation Research Director Shawn Teigen. “But the voters in our sample focused on homelessness in their responses to our survey. A follow-up question also shows that voters think support for the homeless is more important than concerns over neighborhood safety.”

“Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness in Utah,” says CEO Ann Burkholder of the YWCA Utah. “Especially with children, it affects their safety, security, health and life prospects.”

YWCA offers a number of programs to assist victims of domestic violence. Burkholder and Shauna Spencer, who directs YWCA’s domestic violence services, are prepared to discuss the issue with reporters in the context of the Utah Foundation research brief. They can be reached at 801-537-8604.

The voter survey and other information from the Utah Priorities Project is available on the Utah Foundation website at

About the Utah Priorities Project:

Utah Foundation has conducted the Utah Priorities Project in every year with an election for governor since 2004. After identifying the top ten issues of concern to voters, it has published reports and issue briefs on each of the concerns through the election season. The 2016 Utah Priorities Project is supported by donors including Union Pacific Railroad, Zions Bank, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation.