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Housing and disability advocates call for more permanent supportive housing in Utah

A photo of Holly Lowe's homeless encampment.
Emily Means
The Magnolia is a 65-unit permanent supportive housing complex that opened earlier this year in Salt Lake City.

Utah housing and disability advocates made the case Wednesday for the state to invest more into permanent supportive housing.

It’s for people who are chronically homeless — which is typically defined as someone who is disabled and has been unsheltered for more than a year — and it’s affordable with built-in social services.

State auditors said the problem is residents are staying in that situation for too long, and they’re taking up space for other people.

Sherri Wittwer, who has a background in mental health and housing advocacy, said keeping people housed is the point.

“Over the years, supportive housing is shown to not only improve outcomes, but reduce health care costs when provided to those individuals who have complex needs,” Wittwer said. “When someone stays long-term in housing, that is the desired outcome.”

The audit said Utah officials need to decide whether they want to keep people housed or help them become self-sufficient.

Nate Crippes, an attorney at the Disability Law Center, said it’s important to think of this type of housing as a mental health resource.

“There's a fundamental need for robust community-based services and support, a system for Utahns with mental illness,” Crippes said. “That's necessarily going to include permanent supportive housing.”

The advocates, including Crossroads Urban Center and the Utah Housing Coalition, want the state to allocate $200 million of federal funding in the upcoming legislative session on affordable and permanent supportive housing.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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