IN FOCUS Discussion: Partnering to help the unsheltered

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Helping the unsheltered population get back on their feet truly takes collaboration between multiple community groups and members. There are a wide array of needs, and each organization offers their own distinct services to support them in the multiple steps required in recovery and rehabilitation. Tonight, we highlighted two organizations that work together to help serve Utah’s unsheltered community.

Circles Salt Lake is part of a national initiative that focuses on building community by gathering middle and high-income volunteers to not just alleviate, but reduce and end poverty. The volunteer groups assists people in leading their personal journey from “striving to thriving” by inspiring them with hope, supporting them with friendship and encouragement, connecting them with resources, strengthening them to overcome obstacles, achieve their dreams, and giving children positive role models and the tools to succeed.

Their participants and volunteers meet weekly to work towards a goal of earning at least 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline (FPG). An example of what that means is a family of four is at 100% of their FPG if their income is $26,200 a year. Circles Salt Lake‘s goal would be to help that family increase their income to twice that of $52,400.

Unsheltered Utah‘s team takes time to establish rapport, build trust, and make genuine connections with the people they serve. They say that these individuals “are not just our clients. They are people. They are our friends. We care about them, their successes, and their challenges. We celebrate their victories with them.” Volunteers say in-depth assessments show unsheltered people face sexual assault, harassment by neighbors and police, violence in the community, addiction cycle, and sex work v. trafficking.

The organization says they work within the system to connect people to established resources for help, such as medical needs, legal advice, identification documents, food, employment, housing, and more. They also encourage participation from unsheltered people to participate as volunteers through river clean-ups, sorting donations, responding to needs on the street, and more.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Unsheltered Utah focuses on helping people who are in survival mode or crisis, which is the physiological level. Circles Salt Lake focuses on the next levels: safety, love and belonging, and esteem. Their participants need some stability before they can start the program. When someone is in survival mode and constantly living in crisis of the moment and trying to make sure their physiological needs (air, shelter, food, and sleep) are met, advocates say it is impossible to focus their energy on safety needs (personal security, employment, and health).

Noelle Leiser, support coordinator for Circles Salt Lake, and Wendy Garvin, executive director and president of Unsheltered Utah, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion about their organizations, how they got into their line of work, what they do for the unsheltered community, and what brought them together.

For more information about Unsheltered Utah, visit their website.

Circles has a total of six chapters throughout Utah. In addition to Salt Lake City, there are chapters in Utah Valley (Provo and American Fork), Carbon County, St. George, Ogden-Weber, and Davis County. For more information about Circles Salt Lake, visit their website.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Leiser and Garvin, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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