SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Everyone notices our homeless population. Most are living in plain sight but when is the last time you reached out to one?
Nine and every 10,000 people in our state are homeless. It’s more than 2,800 people who live on our streets. The numbers come from the 2018 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).
Within this group of homeless is a smaller one that is growing across the nation called vehicle residents. These are people who live in their cars, RVs, trucks, and vans as their only way to survive.
Kim and Clark Lindquist, along with their dog Jack, live in their van. It’s a reality they’ve lived with since last October.
“We felt like we had to be self-reliant and not reliant on other people, not be reliant on the church, not be reliant on other people helping us out,” says Clark Lindquist. “We got to the point where we felt like we needed to do something to be more reliant, pay off our debt, get money aside, get into a small home.”
You see, Kim and Clark met half a lifetime ago in their late teens down in Texas at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dance.
“There is a difference between how you feel then and how you feel now, and it just gets better every day,” he says.
The couple says it’s not easy living on the streets. Some unsheltered homeless are lucky enough to have a roof over their heads like the Lindquist’s but they’re always on the move from place to place.
“We pray about what we are doing,” he says, “Where we are staying if we get that gut feeling even if it is someplace we stay, we get that gut feeling we are out of there. We don’t stick around.”
Clark adds, “We would like to have a place where we can go to every night.”
The couple is optimistic after hitting financial trouble causing them to lose their home and possessions.
“A number of small decisions, and too much blaming other people and not taking responsibility for your own actions,” Clark says.
Clark makes it very clear alcohol and drugs were never an issue saying, “We have never had substance problems, don’t believe in it.”
The Lindquist both work full-time jobs. Clark works at a West Valley warehouse and Kim works in childcare, both have full benefits.
“I feel like we are actually doing better now almost than we ever have in our life,” Clark adds. “Work, keep a steady job. That is your best resource. If you don’t have a steady source of income how can you ever expect to support yourself or help other people.”
The Lindquist are apart of a growing trend. People moving into their vehicles for one reason or another. Because there is no clear official way to document vehicle residents, they get thrown into the unsheltered category of homeless, along with people who set up tent camps.
In 2016, the HUD AHAR stated Utah had 2,807 homeless, and of that 236 homeless lived unsheltered. https://files.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2016-AHAR-Part-1.pdf
“We are saying, ‘Here we believe in you, we love you, and we support you,” says Jorge Fierro.
Fierro runs Rico Brands and the Buritto Project SLC. The project involves a group of volunteers who deliver nearly 500 rice and beans burritos to the homeless each week. It’s a project close to Clark’s heart.
“He not only admits the fact that he’s had it a little ruff but he has been here volunteering his time to go feed the other homeless,” says Fierro. “I mean there is nothing wrong with [us] going and feeding people, and saying, ‘Hey, you know we believe in you?’ We don’t talk about religion. We don’t talk about politics and we sure don’t talk about their issue. We just want to feed them. We just want to reach out and they can see that we care.”
“I honestly believe that part of living this lifestyle is that you have to help other people and in turn, they will help you,” Clark adds.
He relates to Jorge because Jorge was homeless when he came to the United States of America from Mexico, and it gives Clark something to aspire towards.
“Clark is a very special guy because he is one that has been extremely aware of the fact there are people like myself and the group that we have here, that we reach out,” says Fierro.
That companionship Clark likes to have led him to the Legacy Initiative who helped set them straight financially by linking them up with other community assists.
“They are a huge success story in my opinion. I mean they’ve gone from having places to live to unfortunate situation financially, to living out of their van to now it sounds like they are starting to climb out of that a little bit, saving some money and trying to get a place again,” says Legacy Initiative Tedd Mills. “It’s rare in our experience that people can do that, but they have the support and that is the other thing we try and provide.”
Tedd Mills and his partners started the Legacy Initiative because they found too many hoops they say homeless had to jump through.
“We decided we wanted to bridge the gap where we could, you know, just help people regardless, like totally inclusive, no requirements for getting help, just you know, being able to do something,” says Mills. “We might not be able to do everything for you. We might not be able to get you a home. We might not be able to give you a job, but we can recognize you and understand you are going through something we recognize that and here is what we can do to help.”
One group of people who helped the Lindquist out the most was Utah’s law enforcement.
“This is really, really important, is you want to get in good with your local police officers. Your police officers will be your best friend. Really, they are not the boogie man people make them out to be,” says Clark. “They will give you all the help that you need as long as you are staying on the right side of the law, they’re your friends. Be honest with them, tell them, ‘hey, we are living in our vehicle. Where would be a safe place to stay. And they will point you in the direction of, you know, ‘This place would be safer than this place.'”
The Lindquist’s are close to acquiring their dream place, a tiny home nestled into a big yard.
“Every day we are a little closer and some days we fall a little shorter than others but every day we make a little bit of progress towards that and that is what counts,” says Clark.
What counted more to the Lindquists and many more of our homeless is a simple gesture of reaching out.
Clark says, “‘Ask me the question. I’d rather have you ask than make an assumption about me.”
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