August 12, 2020
Utah’s annual homelessness report demonstrates need for affordable housing options statewide
SALT LAKE CITY (Aug. 12, 2020) - The Department of Workforce Services Housing and Community Development Division released the 2020 Utah Annual Report on Homelessness today.
The report includes the 2020 Point-in-Time Count, which showed an increase of 12% in the number of people counted as homeless on a single night when compared to 2019. That includes “sheltered” people in emergency shelters and certain housing programs and “unsheltered” people sleeping in parks, cars, abandoned buildings or other places “not meant for human habitation.” The total number of sheltered and unsheltered individuals counted for January 22, 2020 was 3,131.
Approximately 10 out of 10,000 Utahns are homeless, a rate that has remained relatively unchanged over the last five years.
The report also includes the System Performance Measures as laid out in The State of Utah Strategic Plan on Homelessness that was published last year. Comparing Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2017 to FFY 2019, data shows that the average time spent homeless in emergency shelter or transitional housing decreased from 64 nights 62 nights. The total number of people utilizing emergency shelter and transitional housing over the course of FFY 2019 was 12,847, a decrease of 5% from the previous year.
“The key to reducing the time that people experience homelessness, and therefore decreasing the number of homeless people at any given time, is to increase affordable housing and provide access to that housing,” said Jonathan Hardy, Housing and Community Development Division Director. “The solution to homelessness is housing. As we help people move from homelessness to a permanent housing situation more efficiently, we get closer to the state’s goals of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring.”
In Salt Lake County, the number of unsheltered individuals in the Point-in-Time Count reflects the unique timing in changes being made to the area’s shelter system. The Point-in-Time Count occurred on the last night that the warming station was open at the Weigand Homeless Resource Center. The warming station was open overnight, but was not a shelter, so each person there was counted as unsheltered. The following night, the Sugar House Temporary Shelter opened, providing an additional 150 shelter beds.
“For the 2020 Point-in-Time Count, we had more volunteers and improved mapping and volunteer distribution that was informed by Census tracts, which contributed to a more accurate unsheltered count than ever before,” said Rob Wesemann, Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness Co-Chair. “Plus, with the warming station open, we had a very simple way to talk with many unsheltered individuals who congregated in a single location.”
In the rest of the state, an increase in chronic homelessness (those who have been homeless for a year and have a disabling condition) shows that the need for increased housing options is not just limited to the state’s urban center.
“This year’s report includes more localized data than ever before so that the Local Homeless Coordinating Committees around the state can look at the unique needs of their local area and determine which solutions are right for their communities,” said Hardy.
The full report is available at housing.utah.gov.
About the Point-in-Time Count
The Point-in-Time count is a physical count of all homeless persons who are living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and on the streets on a single night, mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For 2020, the count was carried out January 22. While many factors, from the weather to the way the count is organized and performed, influence the results of any given PIT count, the PIT is a useful tool in calculating the community’s need for homeless services on any given night. It is also one of the only tools available for measuring the number of homeless individuals who are not enrolled in homeless service programs.