Utah Homelessness Slightly Up for the Year

The Department of Workforce Services released the latest Utah homelessness numbers today at the Homeless Coordinating Committee meeting. Throughout the state, the number of people who experienced homelessness during 2015 increased seven percent compared to 2014. Families made up the majority of that increase, and the growth occurred more outside of Salt Lake County than inside.

“Homelessness has been and will continue to be a major area of focus for Utah,” said Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. “We have certainly made great strides, especially with chronic homelessness, and now we need to apply the lessons that we’ve learned to other groups, like families.”

The data on Utah homelessness comes from both the statewide Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and the Point in Time Count. The HMIS data encompasses approximately 80 percent of individuals who access emergency shelter and transitional housing services over the course of the year, and the Point in Time Count is an in-depth single-night snapshot of homelessness in the state.

The federally mandated count occurs in January each year and allows the state to get a broader and deeper set of data for that one point in time. In addition to shelter counts, hundreds of volunteers fan out across the state and conduct in-depth surveys with people spending the night in tents, cars, and parks – “unsheltered homeless.”

“When combined, the Point in Time Count and HMIS data create a well-rounded picture of homelessness in Utah,” said Housing and Community Development Division Director Jonathan Hardy. “Gathering and publishing the most accurate data possible allows service providers and decision makers to better serve these vulnerable Utahns.”

The 2016 Point in Time Count for chronic homelessness remained relatively flat, with a decrease of 10 individuals compared to 2015, using the same methodology. There was also a total decrease of 218 people experiencing homelessness that night compared to the previous year.

Per federal requirements, some housing that had previously been counted as “transitional” was changed to “permanent” for the 2016 Point in Time Count. This resulted in the families living in those units being counted as housed rather than homeless, which appears as a drop in homeless families in the 2016 Point in Time report.

“This is a good example of why we combine the data from both sources,” said Tamera Kohler, Director of the Utah Community Services Office. “While changing definitions may make it appear as though we have fewer families facing homelessness, the HMIS database shows us that we have more families staying in emergency shelters and using homeless services.

“The data for homeless populations can be complex, but we are always working to improve our methodology and our outreach so that we can best identify who and where to focus our resources,” said Kohler.

Utah’s Homelessness Year-over-year Comparison



Adults without children



Families with children (Total persons in household)






Source: Utah Homeless Management Information System

2016 Point in Time Count 



Adults without children



Families with children (Total persons in household)






Source: 2016 Utah Point in Time Count