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HUD Report: Yearly Point-In-Time Count Shows Small Uptick In Utah Homelessness In 2018

2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

The number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Utah ticked up slightly from the previous year, though still below where it stood more than a decade ago, according to an annual federal reportreleased Monday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment survey showed 1,904 individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night earlier this year in the Beehive State. That’s an increase of .8 percent from 2017, when 1,882 were found homeless.

“We think that’s mostly here in Utah due to a lot better counting efforts,” said Jonathan Hardy, director of housing and community development at Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, which provides the point-in-time statistics to HUD.

“So we had a lot more people because of Operation Rio Grande interested in identifying unsheltered homeless individuals in their communities,” he said.

Nationwide, homelessness was mostly flat with about 553,000 people experiencing homelessness on a single night, a .3 percent increase.

Credit 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

“It really is the cost of housing that’s driving the problem,” said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “It’s a combination of the fact that rents are going up and incomes for lower-income people are not going up as much.”

Still, she said, the fact that the point-in-time survey was mostly flat shows that state and local systems for addressing homelessness are keeping up with demand, a positive sign.

Overall, homelessness remains more than 12 percent lower than it was in 2010, following the Great Recession.

The biggest increases in Utah were among the chronically homeless and veterans. Utah is one of five states where the number of veterans has increased since 2009, contrary to a nationwide downward trend, according to the report.

This year, Utah identified 239 veterans experiencing homelessness in one night, about 20 more than the previous year.

The survey caps off a busy year for Utah’s homeless efforts. Over the summer, the nonprofit Shelter the Homeless began construction on three new homeless centers that will eventually replace The Road Home, downtown Salt Lake’s shelter which the state is shuttering next summer.

The combined shelters will shave the overall number of beds available for homeless individuals, but beef up services and resources that officials hope will get people back into permanent housing.

“We are getting our shelter system ‘right-sized’ next year in a more efficient way to serve people,” said Hardy. “We want to make sure that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.”

Overall, from Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017, roughly 14,000 people passed through the state’s homeless management system, down from the previous cycle.

Hardy said the state has other ideas in the works, too. The newly formed Commission on Housing Affordability is proposing a draft bill during next year’s legislative session and the governor’s budget is looking to add $17 million to affordable housing options.

“For context, the state has typically put just over $2 million of ongoing funds into that issue,” said Hardy. “So it’s a big step for our state to try to close the affordability gap.”

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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