Long-term housing the focus of annual Homeless Summit held in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Homelessness in the United States is an issue of growing concern, and Utah is no exception--there are about 14,000 people who are homeless living in the state.

Utah's annual Homeless Summit focused on how the state can help provide long-term housing stability for those currently with no place to go. Joseph Hardy, who has long struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, spoke at Wednesday's summit and said he has been able to stabilize his life through the state's Housing First program.

He said homelessness is a difficult cycle to break.

“I have a very long history of homelessness, dating all the way back to age five,” he said. “I moved around a lot as a child. I felt like I was growing up in the back seat of a car.”

Hardy was part of a panel of former homeless residents who were on hand to help those in attendance fully understand the plight faced by those who are living without shelter. The Housing First program is just one of the many programs aimed at helping people like Hardy get back on their feet.

Gordon Walker, Director of Housing and Community Development, said giving people a place to call home is often the first step.

“Housing First means that instead of having people change their lives first, we put them into housing so that they then can make the choice as to whether they change their lives,” he said.

Another program familiar to Salt Lake City is the re-purposing of old parking payment receptacles into donation bins for collecting money to help those who are in need. The donation bins give those who donate an alternative to handing money directly over to panhandlers, thus ensuring their donations go to a proper program benefiting all. The collective efforts appear to be working.

“We have reduced chronic homelessness in the state by 72 percent from when we started, and we continue to work to make sure we will end chronic homelessness within the state,” Walker said.

Chronic homelessness refers to those who have been consistently or very frequently without a place to live. Utah's overall homeless population has also dropped considerably, in part due to Utah’s low unemployment rate.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said, “the good news is that unemployment is very low, which means if you want a job, there’s a really good chance you’ll be able to find a job.”

For people like Hardy, the Housing First program (along with all of the state’s continued efforts) is a coveted gift that is helping him work toward his goal of building a secure way of life.

“These are some of the things that people don't see,” he said of the issues people who are homeless face. “They take those things for granted. I can walk to my fridge, and I can get food out of my fridge when I’m hungry now.”


      • Philip Chin

        Nicole, Did you miss that part that almost all mentally ill are ADDICTED to alcohol and/or drugs?
        And did you miss the part of where are the Families and Friends of the Mentally Ill? Did they ALL decide to abandoned their so-called Mentally Ill family member or friend? Are you saying every single one of these family members and friends are that heartless? Or is there far more to the “story” that you hear from the homeless?

  • Kristen Cahen

    .Phillip you are an cynical idiot. I was chronically homeless I moved to Utah and secured employment and have had an apartment the whole time I have been here (going on 5 yrs) at no time was it because of help from the church btw. I am an advocate for those who need help. We together can help these ppl get the help that they need.

    • Philip Chin

      Kristen, where are your family and friends and what would they say if I, we, counselors and social workers were to speak to your family and friends?

      http://tinyurl.com/o92f4oc (same web page as before, but direct link to section)

      If you listen to law enforcement leaders, you will hear that drugs are paid with cash only 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, drugs and alcohol are paid for by trading or bartering of items: e.g. electronics, cell phones, stereo equipment, iPhones, iPads, bikes, laptop computers, etc.

      Many times the stuff that is traded for drugs or alcohol is STOLEN from a person they already know, typically a family member, relative or friend, as these homeless can’t hold a job in the first place.

      Notice how all these homeless advocates don’t mention the “family” or freinds of the homeless. And if you read the news articles and watch these homeless documentaries you will see that journalists and movie producers have a difficult time speaking with any family member as virtually all have declined to speak to the journalist, movie producers, or news reporter. Are there not at least two sides to an argument? If so, why not listen to the other side, like the family members and former friends?

      Also, if these “homeless” are just one (1) or two (2) paychecks from homelessness, why can’t these homeless sleep on the couch of their family members or friend(s) for a few months? (These homeless are not homeless through no fault of their own and have jobs, correct?) Is every single family member and friend so uncompassionate to allow their
      one family member or friend a couch to sleep on so they can their next job?

      And wWhy can’t they just use their family member’s phone as a contact phone number? Wouldn’t any family member allow the use of their phone for a phone contact to get a job? It’s not like the phone number is going to be used a lot in the first place as how many companies are really going to call about this person for a job?

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