Jun 24, 2022 - News

Homelessness is rising in Utah — but not in Salt Lake County

Illustration of the dotted outline of a house key, but no house key.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Homelessness is rising again in Utah after at least three years of steady decline, state officials announced this week. And it's likely due to skyrocketing housing costs.

Driving the news: The state's yearly report on the issue shows the number of Utahns experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2021 was 14% higher than in 2020.

  • Utahns without housing are also taking longer to find homes, with the number of people who spent more than a year in shelters nearly doubling from 2020 to 2021.
  • The percentage of people who found permanent homes after being in shelters and transitional or temporary housing was the lowest since 2017, the earliest year for which data was available.

By the numbers: 10,447 Utahns checked into shelters or other temporary housing in 2021, up from 10,164 in 2020.

  • 7,712 experienced homelessness for the first time.

Salt Lake County is where most of Utah's homeless population lives — but the number of people staying in shelters here decreased, while it rose in the rest of the state.

  • Shelters in the county reported fewer people this year partly because people were staying there longer, so they didn’t have the capacity to accept as many people, said Sarah Nielson, spokesperson for the state Department of Workforce Services, which compiled the report.
  • Both Salt Lake County and City received homelessness prevention grants that other communities did not, which likely enabled some residents to remain housed.

Statewide, more than 330 families with children were homeless as of January 2022, when the state took a census of shelters and other housing services.

  • That's up a bit from 2020's count of about 300 families with children (2021 data was incomplete).
  • About 55% of those families were in Salt Lake County.

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