SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Tackling the issue of homelessness is no easy feat, requiring the collaboration and partnerships of multiple agencies, organizations, community groups, advocates, and volunteers.

The needs of Utah’s unsheltered community range from housing to drug rehabilitation, but there are dedicated individuals and groups working to meet each of those needs. In Thursday’s IN FOCUS discussion, ABC4 News highlighted three local programs that work in different ways to help Utah’s unsheltered community members get back on their feet.

Judge Jeanne Robison with the Salt Lake City Justice Court talked about the Homeless Court, a program that’s been around since 2004. What are some of the challenges our unsheltered community faces when it comes to their records? How does that hinder them from getting jobs and housing? What do these individuals have to do in exchange for getting their warrants recalled or court cases adjudicated?

Damon Harris, Harm Reduction Special with Utah Naloxone shared his personal story of adversity and how he uses his own experiences to help others. How does the Needle Exchange Program help keep unsheltered community members safe from the spread of disease? What is his response to those who believe this program enables the continuation of drug use? What are some success stories that he’s seen from individuals who are battling drug addiction and ready to get clean?

Margie Varela, Co-Founder and President of Street Dawg Crew discussed the needs of unsheltered community members who have a dog. What prompted her to start her organization to help dog owners and pups on the streets? What are some reasons unsheltered individuals may choose to have a dog? What services and resources do they provide to help keep these pets fed, healthy, and warm?

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Judge Robison, Harris, and Varela, 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.