SALT LAKE COUNTY — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson put her boots on the ground Saturday to participate in the annual "Point in Time” count of people experiencing homelessness.
Before the sun came up on a chilly and foggy morning, Mayor Wilson walked through several areas to survey people who do not have a place of their own to sleep.
“As a policymaker, it’s important to see this in a real, direct way,” Wilson said.
The count allows people experiencing homelessness a chance to get connected to vital resources like the new Sugar House shelter.
For Wilson, it’s an up-close look at the severity of an issue she hopes to solve.
“We just came across a very well dressed young man. I would guess, maybe a little older than my older son. Maybe about 20 years old and going off to work in a few hours. He doesn’t have a place to stay. He shared he had some family challenges,” Wilson described of one of her encounters. “It’s a little tug at the heart because he did not meet the profile of somebody you might think is homeless.”
That was just one story, one face of an increasingly challenging issue. Wilson says her experience will help direct her future policies.
“It’s heartbreaking to see people who are ready to go to housing and really, kind of be waiting. I am more inspired to double down on the housing element of this crisis,” Wilson said.
Seeing the real pain of real people, while uncomfortable now, may help lead to the changes so many desperately need.
“I can’t say that I enjoyed it because it's hard to see people suffering or in transition, but I got a lot out of it,” Wilson said.