Housing options, employment services top list of unmet needs
Today, the Utah Foundation released Mending the Net: Exploring Homeless Service Gaps in Salt Lake County. The third report in the Utah Foundation’s Homelessness Series draws from a wide-ranging survey of homeless service providers to explore the overarching service gaps. In particular, the report identifies areas where there is the greatest need for service expansions or enhancements. It also explores whether adequate collaboration is occurring to ensure that the homeless service providers are functioning together as a system.
Among the findings of the new report:
More than half of all sheltered and unsheltered Utahns experiencing homelessness reside in Salt Lake County.
The unsheltered homeless population in the state and Salt Lake County seem to have been increasing over the long term – though homelessness officials say methodological changes in measuring homelessness in 2021 prevent a clear comparison.
In response to the Utah Foundation’s survey on unmet needs in their service areas, homeless service providers most often identified the need for more housing options, such as emergency beds, transitional housing and long-term housing (38% of total gaps reported).
Employment services were also commonly mentioned as a services gap (21% of service gaps reported).
Homeless service providers noted a gap in general support services, such as transportation, child-care services and financial education (18% of service gaps reported).
Unmet health needs were also cited, with an emphasis on primary and preventative health care as well as nutritious food (15% of service gaps reported).
Some service providers identified mental health and substance use services as insufficient, particularly psychiatric treatment and detox services (4% of service gaps reported).
Some service providers noted deficiencies in collaboration and coordination within the service system (4% of service gaps reported).
There are 17 “key” homelessness service organizations in Salt Lake County, with 560 unique connections, signifying a complex and significant network.
The work of helping people step out of homelessness requires real coordination and collaboration among entities because no one provider has all the resources needed.
Service providers report that they are more likely to collaborate with governmental agencies in sharing resources and building programs and services, but are more likely to collaborate with nonprofits in linking people to housing.
Service providers want stronger community partnerships across the service system to maximize the success of homeless interventions.
Looking to the future, concerns remain about the adequacy of resources to address the gaps that providers have identified in the homeless service system.
“There have been increasing efforts to pull together homelessness service efforts and bring together various players as a unified team,” said Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard. “This report will help to give that team a game plan.”
Special thanks to the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, the Richard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation and Salt Lake County for providing project-based support to the Homelessness Series.