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Reports say better data and stronger leadership is needed on homeless issues

Posted at 6:21 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 20:21:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The issue of who is in charge of policy for Utah’s Homelessness issues is not a new debate.

In March lawmakers took up House Bill 394 which would have created what has been referred to as a homeless “Czar” for control of issues.

The debate was heated and ultimately the bill passed the house but not the Senate. The discussion has been shelved until now.

This week the Ken C. Gardner institute for public policy released an analysis of Utah's homelessness structure called “Utah Homeless Services Governance Structure and Funding Model.”

In it the director of the institute, Natalie Gochnour, outlines four ideas that she shares as concerning about how homelessness issues are dealt with in Utah.

“First, we have made strides towards our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. This is a tribute to the leaders of this state.

Second, we face the risk of backsliding if we don’t make smart decisions moving forward. Utah is at a critical juncture.

Three, the current governance structure is rife with alignment and capacity issues, conflicts, and inefficiencies. By implementing a well-defined statewide and system wide governance structure and funding model we will best serve the state.

Finally, we provide six recommendations that, if followed, will create a simpler, more transparent, and coordinated system that is more effective. It will also be more efficient and save money over the long term.” Gochnour wrote in a letter in the beginning of the document.

To read the full public policy recommendation click here.

The big takeaway from this report is the recommendation to form a Utah Homelessness Council with various members from different facets of Utah life (see picture below).

This report is directly in line with another report from from the United States Interagency council on homelessness (USICH) lead by Dr. Robert Marbut.

“We have been so focused on the wrong things,” Marbut said during a zoom interview to the Pioneer Park Coalition, “and if we continue to do the wrong things and measure the wrong things…we’re going to do the wrong things.”

Click here to see the USICH report that deals with how advocates should tackle issues across the country.

“What should we be measuring to say we are moving the needle or not” Says Dave Kelly, Chair of the pioneer park coalition “is it the inputs or is it the outputs and how do we measure stuff.”

Kelly’s group, the pioneer park coalition has been a part of this debate for a while, even as a part of the debate over house bill HB394 for the creation of that homeless “Czar.”

“You need to have more consolidated leadership when it comes to these types of decisions.” Kelly said when addressing the newly released plan from the Ken C. Gardner institute “we have to start getting to where we can identify… what’s working… what’s not. “

That report is now on its way to Utah legislature to be possibly used as a model for future policy in Utah.