Yes, Utah Still Has a Homelessness Problem

A year ago officials announced to great fanfare that chronic homelessness had been nearly wiped out in the Beehive State, but shelters in Salt Lake City today tell a far different story.

Reports The Guardian:

Headlines across the country lauded the Beehive State and its rare statewideHousing First program, which strives to place homeless people in permanent housing before addressing their addiction and mental health issues. Utah had cut the chronic ranks by 91% in the last decade, said Gordon Walker, division director at the time, and there were only 178 chronically homeless people left statewide.

 

“The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions,” trumpeted the Washington Post. “Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness by 91%; Here’s How”,cheered NPR. “Utah is winning the war on homelessness with ‘Housing First’ program”, said the Los Angeles Times.

 

Except no one at the state had bothered to run the announcement by service providers such as the Road Home and Crossroads Urban Center – groups that support the state’s efforts but also work each day with the men, women and children who still have no place to call home.

 

“Making a statement like that was in direct contrast to what you see on the street,” said Glenn Bailey, executive director of Crossroads, which runs a food pantry and thrift store and fights for economic justice. “It’s an exaggeration. It wasn’t helpful … since the recession, the largest single part of the homeless population that’s grown is families with children, and youth”.

 

When asked whether he agreed that Utah’s chronic homeless population was nearing “functional zero”, Road Home executive director Matt Minkevitch replied: “I would differ with that perspective.”