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SLC program helped fight homelessness and hunger during pandemic

Posted at 5:41 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 20:01:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City program that gave money directly to low-income communities warded off homelessness and hunger over the last year.

When Salt Lake City handed out a million and a half dollars in direct COVID-19 economic relief over the last year, the majority of the cash went toward rent.

“They were able to provide this for families who really needed it,” said Reeya Villegis, who worked with Comunidades Unidas to distribute the money.

Using federal CARES money and donations, the city handed out either $500 or $1,000 cards to provide direct help to nearly 8,000 adults and children who didn’t qualify or couldn't access federal stimulus money.

Read - Audit says homelessness in Utah is increasing, housing is not

“A lot of our undocumented families were left out of the stimulus check. Having them have this funding available for them is really a good relief,” said Villegis.

The pandemic disproportionately affected low-income families and communities of color. About half of the households helped by the “Raise Up SLC” program included young children.

“With the economic pressures on working-class families, we knew that cash was going to be needed to help people stay in their housing. That housing is such a fundamentally critical part of success,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

Hundreds of families facing eviction warded off homelessness because the program was used to pay for rent, according to city data. A state audit found the number of people experiencing homelessness in Utah tripled in four years.

“It’s a state problem, it's a humanitarian crisis,” said Mayor Mendenhall.

While the Raise up SLC program has ended, another assistance program is accepting applicants and could pay six months of mortgage payments or $5,000. Click here for a link to apply or call 801-539-1590.