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Homelessness down 10% in Utah from previous year

Published: Monday, May 12 2014 6:40 p.m. MDT

Three homeless men sit and talk as members of law enforcement organizations, business owners, residents, prosecutors and homeless people gather to talk about public safety at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Overall homelessness in Utah fell 10 percent from a year ago, but numbers of chronically homeless people were up slightly, according to results of the annual count of homeless individuals released Monday.

The 2014 count, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, indicates an 8.8 percent increase in chronic homelessness. In Salt Lake County, 150 additional people were identified as chronically homeless during the count, which was conducted Jan. 31. Officials attribute the increase to more accurate counting capabilities.

The chronically homeless include people who have experienced homelessness once within the past year or have had three episodes of homelessness in four years.

Despite this year's slight year-to-year increase, chronic homelessness has decreased 72 percent statewide since 2005.

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said collaborative efforts among government, nonprofit organizations and private agencies are making a difference.

“We are more accurately identifying those who need our services and moving them into supportive housing,” said Cox, who is also chairman of the State Homeless Coordinating Committee.

“We have been actively working to end chronic homelessness here in Utah for the past nine years," he said. "As we near that goal, we are finding and working with the more difficult cases — individuals who may not want our help. At the same time, we are rapidly re-housing those who experience homelessness for the first time.”

A homeless person sleeps in emergency shelters or places not meant for human habitation or lives in transitional housing but was previously living on the streets, according to HUD's definition of homeless.

The annual Point-In-Time Count collects data on the homeless and their use of services, and is used to guide federal funding decisions. Sixty-four Utah homeless services providers, aided by more than 200 volunteers, walked streets, riverbanks and neighborhoods to identify and count the state’s homeless population and enter the data in computers.

In addition to collaborations by government, private and nonprofit partners, state officials says the Department of Workforce Services use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding has helped reduce the lengths of stays in sheltering systems from 60 to 33 days.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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