LDS Church issues statement on homeless issues in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints waded into the sometimes contentious issues surrounding homelessness, issuing a statement saying the church “feels keenly a responsibility to help in a Christlike way.”

The statement from the Mormon faith’s First Presidency comes as political leaders in the Salt Lake Valley have tried to select new sites for shelters, which has led to often combative public meetings from people who do not want them in their neighborhoods. In the statement, the First Presidency noted “our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities.”

People camp on Rio Grande street in Salt Lake City. (Image by Evan Huddle, FOX 13 News)

Here’s the full statement:

Homelessness is a tragic condition that afflicts individuals and even families in many places, including Utah. The causes are varied, and solutions are often difficult, but whether homelessness stems from conflict, poverty, mental illness, addiction or other sources, our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities.

We are grateful for the willingness of government, community and civic leaders to tackle this issue. We applaud their continuing efforts to find solutions that will not only relieve the suffering inherent in homelessness but also implement measures that will help homeless individuals become self-reliant and deal with criminal elements that prey on the homeless.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels keenly a responsibility to help in a Christlike way and has participated in efforts to address homelessness for many years, particularly in the Salt Lake Valley. Our farms and facilities provide food, clothing and resources. We have partnered with government, relief organizations, community groups and other faiths to care for those in need and to help address the underlying causes of homelessness.

Over the last decade, the Church has donated cash and commodities totaling more than $42 million to eight community and religious organizations that serve the homeless in Salt Lake City. There are dozens of partners that draw upon the Church’s food reserves at bishops’ storehouses on a monthly basis. In addition, the Church offers counseling services, employment training, job placement and personal ministering to the homeless. To support the current efforts of city and county officials, the Church earlier agreed to sell its Deseret Industries facility at 130 East 700 South to Salt Lake City for use as one of three or four planned homeless resource centers. In addition, we are in active discussions with community partners to identify where the greatest needs exist and how the Church may offer additional help.

The Church’s institutional response is made possible by the ongoing generous humanitarian and other contributions of Church members. In addition, many members do what they can as individuals and families to support community efforts designed to assist the homeless, for which we express our gratitude.