Report: Homelessness in Utah up by 13 percent

Posted at 6:54 PM, Dec 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-11 01:44:48-05

SALT LAKE CITY - There are more homeless people in Utah than last year. The question is why and what is being done about it. The statistic? The state has seen a 13% increase in homelessness.

"It's awful; it's not fun," says Jason Achter, who has been on the streets of Salt Lake City off and on for 18 years.

The 38 year-old says it gets especially hard around the holidays. He says some bad decisions led him here. 

"No one will give me a job because I have two felonies." 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released the new report which says homelessness in the United States is largely unchanged from 2011 to 2012 but that's not the case for Utah. There's been a slight uptick in the number of chronically homeless like Kevin Tetreault, who tries to find a space to sleep at The Road Home Shelter. However, some nights he's stuck outside in the cold.

"Usually I'll sleep out here, wrapped up in my tarp in my sleeping bag," says Tetreault.

Linda Hilton, the Director of Community Outreach at Crossroads Urban Center says she hasn't noticed much change in the number of working families in need of help.

"The need is pretty consistent it doesn't change much during the holidays, it just continues on at a steady rate."

Crossroads help the working poor, mostly Utah families who have mouths to feed but can't always afford to.

"What they really need is a job and it's very difficult for them to get a job in this market."

Hilton says the change starts at the State Capitol.

"What we really want to do is go into the legislature is look at the policy aspects that are keeping people from working."

Hilton says she's working with the Downtown Alliance and a Utah lawmaker to create legislation that would put some of the homeless back to work. The idea? A tax credit for local business who would hire people like Jason Acher, who is often times turned away because of his criminal past.

"I just want to live somewhere," he says. "Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."