Utah has spent over $100 million dollars on homelessness in our state and more money and resources are being requested. That is enough to buy each homeless individual a house of their own, yet we still have many living on the street.
This is an injustice. Our system has failed the most vulnerable of our communities and we must fix it. Their lives are too valuable. We need a plan.
#1 Create a coordinated plan based on metrics and goals
There are nearly a dozen different committees working to end homelessness in Utah, but very little coordination. Leadership is unclear, goals are not met, and there is no clear direction or plan. Data needs to be shared and goals need to be defined. We have very little understanding of how many homeless individuals we have in Utah, much less what their individual needs are. Our homelessness services must work together to help more and more people attain self-sufficiency and stable housing year after year.
Everyone experiencing homelessness should have a personalized plan to help them attain permanent housing. There needs to be coordination amongst service providers to get someone experiencing homelessness into a program that fits their needs. That plan will look different for each person. Some will be able to attain self-sufficiency. Others may need permanent care due to the severity of their condition. Whatever the need, we must meet the challenge to get this population off the streets and into the position of dignity that they deserve.
#2 Provide Skills Training and Wrap Around Services
Our goal should be to help everyone experiencing homelessness attain permanent housing. For many, this means reaching self-sufficiency. We must help people acquire the skills they need to keep a job and find a career. Programs such as The Other Side Academy and Community First should be looked to as examples of success and replicated as much as possible. These programs work because they teach responsibility and dignity of work. There needs to be follow up services that help someone change their habits, not just expecting habits to change overnight. In addition, shelters need to provide trauma informed care, skills training, and necessary wrap around services to ensure that individuals have everything they need to move forward toward self-sufficiency.
#3 Supply Medication & Mental Health Resources
Many experiencing homelessness suffer from underlying mental health or other conditions that are a primary cause of their homelessness. If self-sufficiency and stable housing is our goal, we must help them overcome or properly manage their condition. Medication, therapy, and other mental health services should be an integral part of our overall homelessness system. No-one should be living on the street due to a mental health condition. We have the resources to meet their needs and help them to live a life of dignity and fulfillment. We must do so.
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