NewsLocal News

Actions

Number of Utahns experiencing homelessness for first time increases

Posted at 9:12 PM, Jun 29, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Data from an annual report issued by the Utah Office of Homeless shows more of the state's residents are becoming homeless for the first time.
 
For the past 15 years, Kathy Bray has been president and CEO with Volunteers of America which focuses on addiction, mental health and homelessness.

"I think we served about 6,000 homeless individuals in Salt Lake County as a system," she explained.

The group has also helped an additional 2,400 people last year through their street outreach teams.

"When the pandemic assistance went away, there were a number of individuals who were in a position where they didn't know how they were going to make their rent payment, some of those individuals may become homeless," said Bray. 

The new report from the Office of Homeless Services showed that in the last fiscal year, the number of Utahns experiencing homeless for the first time reached more than 8,600 people, an increase of 821 individuals from the previous year.

The point-in time count, which was done in January and tallies the number of people in shelters or are defined as unsheltered showed a nearly 4% increase.
 
According to one expert, the solution to those rising numbers is housing.

"We have been working closely with the legislature and they have seemed fit to appropriate some significant funds to our office to administer deeply affordable housing grants and attainable housing grants that will produce more housing, deeply affordable housing," said Wayne Niederhauser, Utah's homeless coordinator.

Niederhauser added that his department was awarded $55million from the legislature in 2022 and another $50 million this year to put toward deeply affordable housing. 

One example of housing the department funded last year is the Point at Fair Park on North Temple.

"It's permanent housing or long-term housing for those individuals and it's much needed," he said.

Strides have been made to protect the homeless as Utah heads into the warm, summer months.

"I know that St. George switch point who runs the shelter there has a plan for this summer, it's called "Code Red" and they're ramping up for those very, very hot days that they experience, and hydration is the biggest issue for people," Niederhauser said.

Bray said that this time of year, the community is asked for help with water donations, sunscreen and things that are really practical to help protect those experiencing homelessness.