A Snapshot of Utah’s Comprehensive Report on Homelessness

A homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Paris

[Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Kyl Myers.]

Everyone has an opinion about homelessness but not everyone knows the facts. Utah’s 2013 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness presents demographic statistics and information about Utahns who experience homelessness. We can all contribute to making homelessness a thing of the past in our state and in our nation, but being informed is the first step.

Here are some myths and facts presented in the 2013 Report:

MYTH – People who are homeless stay homeless for a long time.

FACT – Only 3% of Utah’s homeless are chronically homeless or experience homelessness for long periods of time. Of those experiencing homelessness, 57% of single adults, 33% of families and 71% of young people stayed in shelter less than 2 weeks during 2012.

MYTH – Most are single men.

FACT –Single men comprise 29% of Utah’s homeless population while 44% are parents and children.

MYTH – The homeless population is transient, migrating to cities with the best services.

FACT – 88% of Utah’s homeless population lived in Utah when they became homeless.
MYTH – They are to blame for their situation.

FACT – Many are victims of circumstance, illness and trauma from violence or abuse. Roughly 30% of all homeless persons are children. About 73% of all homeless persons experience mental illness, domestic violence or other barriers to stable housing.

The report also describes how difficult it is to afford  housing on a minimum wage income:

Forty five percent of Utah’s renters (114,705 individuals) are unable to afford reasonable housing (0 to 80 percent of Area Median Income, AMI). Fair Market Rent (FMR), as established by HUD, is $702 for a two-bedroom apartment, and requires a household income well above the poverty level (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2010). At minimum wage in the State of Utah, a worker would need to work 82 hours per week to afford a FMR 2 bedroom apartment (HUD, 2012) – page 8

Having a roof over your head is a luxury in our country – Let’s make it a right.

You can help:

  • Donate canned/non-perishable food and baby formula to food banks and shelters [not just in December]
  • Donate clothes, toiletries, and diapers
  • Donate money to organizations in Utah that assist our homeless population
  • Donate your time – volunteer at these organizations: You can give haircuts, serve meals, tutor children, and much more
  • Consider reducing rent for a recently homeless tenant
  • Hire recently homeless job candidates
  • Talk to people about the facts and realities of homelessness and help eliminate the stereotypes and myths
  • Smile. Be kind. Most of us are lucky that we will likely never face the hardships of homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are not a problem – the situations that instigate homelessness are the problem.

Please click on the link for the Homeless Resource List to find out more about what organizations and services are available in Utah and how you can help.

 By working together, we can make sure no one wonders where they are going to sleep tonight.

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