Statewide homelessness decreases slightly as national problem continues
Homelessness decreased 3 percent statewide between 2005 and 2007. Nevertheless, more than 3,000 people continue to struggle to find shelter every night at locations across Utah, according to the latest report issued by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The alliance research report indicated that 2,700 or 90 percent of the individuals in question were referred to emergency shelters operating in Utah or transitional housing, with only 300 or 10 percent of the homeless population remaining on the street in 2007.
By comparison, 83 percent of Utah's homeless people were sheltered in 2005 while more than 500 or 17 percent of the individuals were left on the street.
The research report showed a 10 percent decrease in homelessness nationwide, with the number dropping from 744,313 per night in January 2005 to 671,859 in January 2007.
The data included a 28 percent decrease in chronic or long-term homelessness and an 18 percent decline in family homelessness.
The picture varied among the states, with 36 percent reporting increases in homelessness and the rest reporting decreases.
"However, many local advocates and service providers are presently experiencing an increase in homelessness, which is reversing the reduction in homelessness from 2005 to 2007 because of the current recession and housing foreclosure crisis," pointed out task force director Lloyd Pendleton. "The state has a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness and reduce overall homelessness by 2014, but achieving that goal will now be a greater challenge because of the present economic conditions."
A statewide count scheduled on Jan. 28 will provide a better idea of the current impact on homelessness and the emergency sheltering system.
"Additional resources will be needed and how to address that need is under consideration," explained the task force director.
A number of factors contribute to homelessness, noted state and federal officials. The factors include the following:
â¢Evictions due to mortgage foreclosures.
â¢An individual's physical health and disability.
â¢Mental health and trauma.
â¢ Substance abuse.
â¢Weak social networks.
However, the lack of affordable housing in Utah and at locations across the nation continues to represent the primary driver, indicated the officials.
The alliance's 2005 and 2007 estimates are compilations of point-in-time counts collected by Utah's three continuums of care, explained the alliance representatives.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development previously defined the local jurisdictions to oversee homeless services.
The jurisdictions are required to count homeless populations every other year on one night during the last week in January.
Despite limitations, the estimates act as a tool for assessing the progress the state as well as the nation has made on reducing homelessness, concluded alliance representatives.