SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A statewide point-in-time count reveals that there are around 3,556 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in Utah.

The Utah Homelessness Council and Utah Office of Homeless Services released a new strategic plan on Monday, March 13, to address homelessness throughout the state.

As of April 2022, an estimated 12,442 Utahns are enrolled in homeless services or housing projects in the state, according to the Homeless Management Information System.

“Our vision for the homeless response system in Utah is to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring; that all people experiencing homelessness can thrive to their fullest potential; and that our communities are stable and safe for everyone,” said Whitney Clayton, co-chair of the Utah Homelessness Council.

Other than outlining goals, the plan also points out racial inequalities in the homeless system of care. Black people only account for 1% of Utah’s population, but over 10% of them are homeless. Similarly, the Hispanic or Latino community represents 14% of the state population and makes up 23% of those who are experiencing homelessness.

“People of color and low-income communities have been more impacted but it is not addressed,” said a representative of the Utah Housing Corporation. “When we think about our homeless response, we are often thinking about white people who speak English. We don’t meet the needs of people of color, immigrants, people who speak other languages.”

The new plan, approved in February 2023, can be narrowed down into five goals:

  1. Increase accessible and affordable permanent housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness across the state
  2. Increase access to and availability of supportive services and case management for people experiencing and at risk of homelessness
  3. Expand homeless prevention efforts by increasing coordination, resources, and affordable housing opportunities
  4. Target housing resources and supportive services to people experiencing unsheltered homelessness
  5. Promote alignment and coordination across multiple systems of care to support people experiencing and at risk of homelessness

By 2027, Utah leaders hope to create at least 547 housing opportunities for the homeless community and reduce the number of homeless individuals by 20% each year. The plan also seeks to reduce vulnerable subpopulations including those who are chronically homeless, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, youth, and people with disabilities.

According to the federal government’s Homeless Management Information System data, around 48% of the people who are homeless had a disability, and about 36% had a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder. Not only that, it reportedly takes a Utahn approximately 92 days – more than three months – to exit homelessness, meaning they have found permanent housing.

A 2021 bill created the Council and tasked the coordinator of the Utah Office of Homeless Services with creating a new plan to minimize homelessness in the state.