SALT LAKE CITY -- The Coalition of Religious Communities is raising awareness and taking action to end child homelessness in Utah.
The group believes this is a bipartisan issue and one that the Utah community could eliminate if we work together.
A group of 32 congregations from Price to Ogden will include prayers for homeless children in their services this weekend. It’s part of an interfaith effort to bring attention to the issue and hopefully find a solution.
Organizers say they may not agree on how to pray, but the ultimate goal is something they all have in common.
“This is an area where we can find common ground and people can work together,” said Bill Tibbitts of the Crossroads Urban Center.
Bishop Scott Hayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah said the focus on children is of special importance.
“Children represent the future,” Hayashi said. “To not care for children is to not care about our future.”
Studies show that homeless children are two times more likely to have learning disabilities and three times more likely to have emotional problems. Half of all homeless students are held back a grade, and 22 percent are held back multiple grades.
“There are about 600 kids who are homeless in Utah right now,” Tibbitts said, adding that it doesn’t have to be that way: “We as a state, if we were serious about it, we could solve it.”
The coalition meets twice a week this month and plans to talk with legislators about the issue of child homelessness.
“We spend a great deal of time and energy speaking about the unborn, but once they are born, then it seems that they are forgotten,” Hayashi said.
Tibbitts said it’s a goal everyone should be on board with.
“Long-term, short-term: Kids shouldn’t be homeless,” he said. "If we as a community work to address it, we can actually eliminate it.”