Helping the Homeless in Utah


(Photo by Chris Samuels)

(Photo by Chris Samuels)
(Photo by Chris Samuels)

Anna Branson has lived in Utah her whole life and said she thinks the homeless population “has increased since the recession.”
“It’s so hard to get jobs now to be able to pay for shelter,” Branson, an undeclared freshman, said.
According to Utah’s most recent Comprehensive Report on Homelessness, there is a difference between homelessness and chronic homelessness. Most homelessness is temporary, averaging 26 days for families in Utah. Almost 14,000 people were “temporarily homeless” in 2005. Since then, the temporary number has increased — there were over 15,000 in 2013 — but the number of chronically homeless has decreased.
Chronic homelessness is long-term. Around 2,000 people were chronically homeless in 2005, according to the report. Now, it’s under 500 — a 74 percent decrease.
Zachary Luscher, a freshman in material science engineering, said he thinks support programs increase homelessness in other cities.
“In Seattle, one of the reasons they have a high homeless population [is that] they have really good support programs,” Luscher said. “And when you have that, people can just rely on them.”
Anna Papadopoulos, an undeclared freshman, said the state should create more jobs for the homeless in order for them to procure a steady income.
“That’s when you see if they can take the initiative, or throw it away with drugs,” Papadopoulos said.
Utah’s solution to homelessness depends on how long the individual has been without shelter. Temporary homeless rely on federal and private social welfare programs.
Mohammad Ali, a sophomore in marketing, said he thinks the homeless need more support than shelters.
“[Shelters] might give them some food, ways to sleep, but they have to leave in the morning,” he said, “They have to open some kind of camp where homeless people can stay there and they can train them. Some of them can’t really work, because they have disabilities and other things … They are [homeless] because they can’t do something for themselves or their family doesn’t care about them.”
The chronically homeless have access to Utah’s Housing First program. Beginning in 2005 under Gov. Jon Huntsman, Housing First gives homeless people houses, no strings attached. Individuals are given an apartment and a case worker to bring them to self sufficiency. Even if they don’t become self sufficient, they keep the apartment.
Lloyd Pendleton, the director of Housing First, said one chronically homeless person costs the state $20,000 in ambulances, shelter costs and food, but giving them an apartment only costs $8,000 a year and decreases the chance of needing to provide emergency medical care and other services.
Rohan Barkley, a sophomore in chemistry, said he thinks this money should go elsewhere.
“America has the highest rate of inequality in terms of wealth,” Barkley said. “Even though that is the case, spending money towards building places where homeless people could live won’t really help. If a homeless person just worked for a living, to buy food, it’s a better alternative.”
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