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Front Page » October 14, 2004 » Local News » Price mayor joins homeless initiative
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Price mayor joins homeless initiative


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By MELANIE STEELE
Sun Advocate reporter

Homelessness is a problem that plagues most societies. It is a common misconception, though, that homelessness exists only in large urban cities and is not a concern in more rural areas like Carbon County.

The exact number of individuals living without stable housing in the United States is almost impossible to determine, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A recent national survey indicated that an estimated 842,000 people are homeless on a given night and two to three million Americans are homeless during the course of the year, pointed out the human services agency.

And the numbers are rising across the county, state and nation.

Although homelessness for most people is a temporary situation, a small percentage of the population fall in and out of a pattern of homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines chronic homelessness as an unaccompanied disabled individual who has been continuously homeless for more than one year.

Chronic homelessness accounts for only about 10 percent of the homeless population. But more than 50 percent of the money spent on resolving homelessness goes toward treating the chronically homeless.

To track the expense, 22 people identified as chronically homeless were trailed during a period of 18 months. On average, the cost per person was $300,000, or $200,000 a year.

And according to Price City Mayor Joe Piccolo, the exorbitant expense of being chronically homeless in no way helps the individual.

"It doesn't do any good for them in the long term stance," stated Piccolo.

The majority of chronically homeless persons suffer from mental illness to some degree, noted the human services agency. They will often drift from location to location until the need for medication or services arises.

The chronically homeless often commit petty crimes so that their needs can be met through the court system, explained Piccolo.

Substance abuse, physical disabilities, domestic violence or a history of abuse or neglect can also increase the likelihood of an individual becoming homeless, according to human services. With the rise of methamphetamine and other drug use in Carbon County, in addition to the presence of other factors that can lead to homelessness, Piccolo said the area could be heading toward more of a homeless problem.

So, proactively addressing the issue has become Piccolo's goal.

Piccolo has recently joined Utah Gov. Olene Walker's initiative to reduce the effects of chronic homelessness through a 10-year plan called the Continuum of Care.

"If we can have an impact on that 10 percent, we'll free up funding to help the rest of the population," he said.

With the help of Lloyd Pendleton of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Humanitarian Services, Piccolo and six of his peers representing the seven regions of Utah will be receiving the training to help them better address the issue of chronic homelessness. Piccolo has already begun to establish a task force of representatives from local organizations that will help deal with homelessness and its effects.

Because much of Utah is already religiously tied to a variety of dominations that encourage humanitarian aid, Piccolo said that the Utah will likely be looked at as a model for the rest of the states.

"I believe we will set the standard the nation will look at," he commented.

The Continuum of Care will address housing and job needs, as well as work toward building self reliance and self esteem among those struggling with homelessness.

"We're not just going to feed them a fish," remarked Piccolo. "We're going to teach them to fish."

Piccolo will attend training workshops on Oct. 18 and 19 in Sandy to better learn about the issues involved and how to begin to work toward addressing them. He will then begin to train the southeastern Utah task force.

"It's really like walking on the moon for the first time," concluded Piccolo. "I don't really know what I'm doing but I'm excited about the idea of having a positive impact on just one person's life."



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