Posted by: Deb Henry | 07/05/2013

Homeless in Sugar House

Our Sugar House Community Council mused this past Wednesday about how to get rid of the homeless people in Sugar House. I wanted to ask questions such as, “Where should we put them? Why just in Sugar House? Why not in all of SLC or all of the USA? Which ones stay and which ones go?”

…but the conversation is so much bigger than our compact, monthly meetings. I do, however, want to have the conversation — because being down at Pioneer Park during Occupy Salt Lake opened my eyes to many issues and shattered many of my own stereotypes about what it means to be homeless.

Some things to consider: (AKA Things I learned at Occupy and while as a volunteer at the Homeless Youth Resource Center)

  • Between 20 percent and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, meaning that hundreds of thousands of LGBT children and young adults are living on the streets each year. Homelessness disrupts the lives and development of these young people and can lead to significant negative long-term outcomes in mental and physical health, lower educational attainment, and economic instability.
  • You cannot bring your bags into some of the shelters. If you have possessions, you’re expected to leave them outside or dispose of them in many cases. Sometimes, everything someone owns (including their winter jacket and baby pictures) is in their bag.
  • In order to continue working and being able to get to work, they must choose whether or not they have an automobile OR a stable apartment since public transit by the Utah Transit Authority fails most of our residents.
  • In the Philadelphia region, moderate-income households are faced with average housing and transportation costs exceeding 90 percent of their income in some neighborhoods.
  • You need an ID to get into the shelters. If you don’t have an ID, you can get one with the shelter’s address on it, but then when you apply for a job, they know you’re homeless and probably will quit or have trouble getting to the job — so they don’t hire you.
  • Some of them are recovering addicts and the temptations and pressures in the shelter are significant enough for them to choose to take their chances elsewhere.
  • Some of them are in significant debt and would rather pay off some of their debt and couchsurf for a while instead of paying rent for a space they never have time to enjoy.
  • If you have bad credit because of unexpected health problems or foreclosure, many times it’s very difficult to find affordable housing or anyone that will rent to you after they run your credit.
  • Many of these people have PTSD as a result of a personal experience. Their animals keep them sane. Homeless shelters do not allow pets.
  • A study by the group 100,000 Homes said that, though veterans are 9 percent of the population, 15 percent of the 32,000 homeless people surveyed had served in the military.

There has also been some discussion about Form Based Code/ the upcoming expansion to residences in Sugar House and whether or not we should support SROs or Single Room Occupancy Housing. Sugar House is seriously lacking in a diversity of housing types. This market failure is pricing families out of the ability to stay close to each other after graduating school or during retirement. It has been my experience that mixed housing of this nature creates more social and economic cross-pollination and supports empathy for our neighbors.

Housing of this nature would also allow those pesky homeless people to have a place for themselves and pay rent — addressing many of the issues above.

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Responses

  1. Would you be willing to talk to me about whether you think this problem in Sugarhouse could be made worse if the Homeless Shelter is moved out a few miles further away onto the West side of the City? Call me at Crossroads Urban Center if you’ve got time to talk, 801-364-7765 ex 107.


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