This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Homelessness in Utah is a complex, challenging societal issue one that requires a long-term holistic approach and a statewide commitment to address.
Two commissions, one created by the city mayor and another created by the county mayor, have worked very hard for the past two years in bringing together representatives from businesses, service providers, private funders, individuals who are homeless, local governments and elected officials from the State of Utah to focus on homeless services and facility locations.
Palmer DePaulis and I, co-chairs of the Salt Lake City Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission, have engaged with representatives from businesses, service providers, private funders, individuals who are homeless, local governments and elected officials from the state of Utah to help determine where new resource centers in our capital city should be located. The county's Collective Impact Committee has been studying the needed services and how they will be administered. We can confidently say an unprecedented amount of time and effort has been expended to make certain our next steps are the right ones for all concerned.
We have evaluated the needs in a different and more comprehensive way than ever before. We understand that until we change the way things are done today, such as having all the homeless in the same location, and trying to serve everyone with a "one size fits all" solutions, nothing will be different. There are nine identifiable populations of homeless people with distinctively different needs. We must address those needs with solutions that can move them out of homelessness and return them to stable situations with the dignity they deserve.
We have an urgent, moral imperative to address the ever-increasing number of Utah school children who are among the homeless. Children are profoundly affected when they are homeless. They experience severe learning disruption, have lower education outcomes and alarmingly higher rates of learning disabilities, illness, hunger and behavioral problems. And they are not safe. Children who are victims of domestic violence and those with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the homeless population. There have been far too many tragedies in our community involving homeless children. We must help them.
A completely new and different model for providing services to those experiencing homelessness is the result of the intense work of these two commissions. Groups of homeless individuals with like needs, such as single men, single women, families with children, youth, mentally ill, addicted, etc., will be given the tools they need to recover within smaller, scattered resource centers. This will lessen the burden and reduce the problems of the Rio Grande area. We believe this new plan will provide facilities that are safe and welcoming, while helping the homeless recover.
The location of the resource centers will be determined by Salt Lake City officials who have engaged the public in the process through open community meetings in several different areas of the city. Utah residents are eager to see good solutions. Individuals, families and children who are homeless urgently need these solutions. Communities, businesses and neighborhoods will benefit from these solutions.
Our collective planning efforts have forged a path for change and a set of viable big picture solutions. The private sector is committed to partnering with state and local governments to implement the solutions recommended.
We have created an action plan. It is a good plan. I strongly urge all of us to work together to make the difficult decisions that need to be made, and to accept and act upon those decisions. We have a shared civic duty and an urgent moral imperative to do so.
Gail Miller is owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of companies.