Mar 15, 2023 - News

Utah reveals aggressive plan to reduce homelessness

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Utah leaders aim to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness and increase access to affordable housing under a new strategy revealed this week.

Driving the news: The state's Homelessness Council and Office of Homeless Services released a 24-page report outlining actionable goals to address the issue in the Beehive State.

Objectives consist of increasing permanent affordable housing across the state, boosting access to supportive services and case management, and expanding homelessness prevention efforts. Some strategies to accomplish these goals include:

  • Supporting localities' investment in permanent housing using public and private funds.
  • Establishing a state-level supportive-services working group to coordinate mental health care, addiction recovery and case management assistance.

The plan sets 2027 as a goal to hit specific objectives, like building or finding 574 housing options for homeless people and reducing the number of people newly experiencing homelessness by 20% each year.

  • In the report, stakeholders emphasized that more permanent housing was the "most important solution to ending homelessness."

What they're saying: "Despite years of focused effort and spending millions of dollars to solve problems, Utah’s experience with homelessness has proved to be perpetual and challenging," the report says.

  • At a Monday news conference Wayne Niederhauser, the state's homeless coordinator, said: "What we have is maybe not something that everybody likes perfectly, but we have a balanced plan."

Flashback: The strategy comes nearly two years after the Utah Legislature passed a bill directing the council and state homeless services coordinator to develop a strategic plan to reduce homelessness.

  • The council hired consulting agency, Homebase, which helped conduct the study, and compile data and interviews with stakeholders.

Context: Utah is facing a shortage of nearly 41,000 affordable and available rental units, per the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

  • Between 2020 and 2021, the number of Utahns experiencing homelessness for the first time increased by 14%, per a report from the state Department of Workforce Services.

Zoom in: In Salt Lake City, the development of what will be the state's first tiny home village is underway.


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