The Utah Department of Workforce Services Housing and Community Development Division has released its “2020 Utah Annual Report on Homelessness” and the numbers are mixed. The report’s “point-in-time count” statistic showed an increase of 12 percent in the number of people counted as homeless on a single night when compared to 2019. That includes people sheltered in emergency shelters and certain housing programs and “unsheltered” people sleeping in parks, cars, abandoned buildings or other places “not meant for human habitation.” The total number of sheltered and unsheltered individuals counted for January 22, the date of the count, was 3,131.
Approximately 10 out of 10,000 Utahns are homeless, a rate that has remained relatively unchanged over the past five years.
The report also includes the system performance measures as laid out in the “State of Utah Strategic Plan on Homelessness” that was published last year. Comparing federal fiscal year 2017 to 2019, data shows that the average time spent homeless in emergency shelter or transitional housing decreased from 64 nights to 62 nights. The total number of people utilizing emergency shelter and transitional housing over the course of 2019 was 12,847, a decrease of 5 percent from the previous year.
“The key to reducing the time that people experience homelessness, and therefore decreasing the number of homeless people at any given time, is to increase affordable housing and provide access to that housing,” said Jonathan Hardy, Housing and Community Development Division director. “The solution to homelessness is simple — more housing.”