SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – After working on a research report aimed to find the biggest gaps in homeless services in Salt Lake County, one thing was very clear to Shawn Teigen, Research Director for the Utah Foundation.
“I think the obvious thing is that the kind of makeshift encampments along streets in town – that isn’t the solution. That’s not a solution for people that are living in these communities and then are working downtown, and it’s not a solution for the people that are living in these encampments,” he says. “Something else has got to be workable.”
Utah Foundation, a non-profit research organization, released Mending the Net: Exploring Homeless Service Gaps in Salt Lake County, on Wednesday. Teigen has been working on the third report in the series, which pulled together responses from homeless service providers to identify gaps in services being offered to homeless people in Salt Lake County. It also explored how effectively these providers are working together to meet the needs of the area’s homeless.
Of all the unmet needs, the one most often reported by homeless service providers was the need for more housing options: long-term housing, emergency beds, and transitional housing. This need made up for 38% of the total reported service gaps.
Teigen says this finding is not surprising necessarily, but really shows that there is a housing affordability issue. Working on this issue could help prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, he explains.
“So, is there something we can do on the affordable housing side in terms of meeting that big gap of available, affordable housing that exists in the state?” he asks.
Another issue is finding people permanent and supportive housing if they already are homeless.
The next most commonly reported service gap was employment services, which made up 21% of the reported gaps.
“If you’re experiencing significant trauma, you’ve got mental health issues, you’ve got addiction, and you don’t have a fixed address when you’re applying for a job, you can’t apply for a job in the first place, Teigen says. “You’ve got all these other problems that you’re dealing with. So I think of this big, complex web and people have all these different needs in order to help them extricate themselves from homelessness.”
One of those needs is general support services like transportation, childcare services, and financial education, a service gap that was reported at 18% by service providers.
15% of the service gaps reported had to do with unmet health needs, including the need for primary and preventative care and nutritious food.
Service providers cited the need for mental health and substance use services such as psychiatric treatment and detox services 4% of the time. They also identified the need for better collaboration among the service providers 4% of the time.
The report identified 17 “key” homeless resource organizations in Salt Lake County and 560 unique connections, revealing a “complex and significant” network. According to the report, helping people successfully out of homelessness requires that service organizations closely work together since no one organization has every needed resource.
Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard, hopes that this report will help to do that.
“There have been increasing efforts to pull together homelessness service efforts and bring together various players as a unified team,” he says. “This report will help to give that team a game plan.”
To view the full report, visit www.utahfoundation.org.