More than 60 percent of Utahns say the state’s homeless problem is “severe,” and must be addressed now according to a new UtahPolicy.com poll.
UtahPolicy.com pollster Dan Jones & Associates listed several options for respondents, and then asked which best described their opinion toward homelessness:
62 percent said: “Homelessness is a severe problem that needs to be addressed now.”
24 percent said: “Homelessness is a problem, but it appears current efforts to aid the homeless are sufficient.”
9 percent said: “Homelessness is not much of a problem, and local governments are dealing with it.”
1 percent said: “Homelessness is not a problem at all.”
And 4 percent didn’t know.
Last week started out with Draper Mayor Troy Walker offering two possible sites for a homeless center – one next to a huge gravel pit, the other on state prison property.
Then in a Wednesday packed public hearing citizens harangued Walker and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams – even booing a homeless man – and Walker withdrew the offer.
On Friday McAdams, following state law, made his recommendation — a vacant lot across the street from the Salt Lake County Jail on 33rd South (3380 South 1000 West).
That recommendation now goes to a special state homeless committee which must act on it by mid-April. It’s unlikely that group will go against McAdams’ pick.
The Draper public hearing clearly opened old wounds dealing with a locale’s willingness to house and help a problem segment of society.
Jones’ questions didn’t deal with a willingness to help, but the seriousness of the homeless problem.
And it is clear from the new data that Utahns statewide expect their governments to deal with the homeless issue – now mainly seen in downtown Salt Lake City.
Even most Republicans – not known in Utah for government solutions to social ills – want action. And they want it now.
58 percent of Republicans say homelessness is a “severe problem” that needs attention now; 27 percent say it’s a problem, but local officials’ efforts are sufficient; while other solutions get little support.
79 percent of Democrats say the homeless problem is “severe” and needs immediate attention.
69 percent of political independents agree; take action on homeless now.
In fact, among the various demographic groups, only those who self-identified as “very conservative” didn’t give a majority to the “homeless is a severe problem” option.
But even there, 49 percent of the “very conservative” said it is a severe problem; 33 percent saying it is a problem, but current efforts are sufficient.
The “somewhat conservative” gave 60 percent support to “severe” problem and get it solved now; 67 percent of the moderates felt that way, and 87 percent of the “very liberal” Utahns say solve the homeless problem now.
Jones also breaks out respondents by religion.
And in all religious groups you find majority support for quick action on the “severe” homeless problem:
58 percent of “very active” Mormons say it is a “severe problem” that needs action now.
64 percent of “somewhat active” Mormons agree.
66 percent of “other religions” say the same.
71 percent of Catholics say homelessness is a “severe problem.”
84 percent of Protestants want action now.
And 71 percent of Utahns who said they have no religion think the homeless issue is a “severe problem” that needs attention now.
Jones polled 844 adults statewide from March 22-29. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.37 percent.
So, with McAdams’ pick Friday the four new homeless centers are:
Two in Salt Lake City: 131 E. 700 South (the current Deseret Industries site), and 275 High Ave.
One in the current Midvale center, 529 W. 7300 South.
And the new McAdams site, 1000 West, and 3300 South.
The Road Home center on Rio Grande Street next to the Gateway Center – where all of the homeless problems are now – will be closed by June 2019.
While none of the proposed sites were perfect, the near-jail facility has the advantage of having 24/7 police presence, along with being undeveloped land whereby the new center could be constructed from scratch to meet specific needs.
It is not yet clear which site will be only for single men – the most unattractive homeless group that could potentially cause the most problems for surrounding residential and commercial occupants.