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Report details how Utah can better serve homeless population

Posted at 12:53 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 14:53:23-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report from a Utah group is examining how the state can better serve the homeless population.

Salt Lake County is currently where half the state’s homeless population can be found.

"You’re seeing more people that are downtown, sleeping in a tent beside a road somewhere and you’re seeing these little encampments," said Shawn Teigen, research director for the Utah Foundation.

Teigen, along with others, are concerned that rising housing prices, combined with the pandemic, could make the problem worse over time. That's why the independent research group generated the report based on responses from area homeless service providers.

The project compiled a list of unmet needs in the community.

The top need: More housing options that include transitional and long term housing.

Employment services are also a concern, along with general services such as transportation and child care.

Teigen adds it would make sense if the county focused on people who are on the brink of homelessness — especially since the state and nationare still in the middle of a pandemic.

"Maybe we have to look a little bit earlier at the system and see if we can keep people from getting to that point so that we are not having people needlessly suffer,” he said.

Despite identifying improvements they’d like to see, homeless service providers say there’s still a gap in their understanding of the growing unsheltered populations and those in encampments.

Teigen doesn't rule out producing another report that would focus on getting responses from the homeless population directly — to learn more about their needs.