SALT LAKE CITY — Three nonprofit agencies that provide direct services to homeless men, women and children are launching a joint Street Engagement Team to enhance service delivery to clients.
The enhanced outreach efforts around Rio Grande Street and Pioneer Park have been funded by a grant from the inaugural Salt Lake County Council of Government's Homeless Services Fund.
The $200,000 grant was awarded Thursday to the participating agencies, Volunteers of America Utah, The Road Home and Fourth Street Clinic. The outreach team will be headquartered in the clinic.
The grant was funded by contributions from cities in Salt Lake County and the county itself. The county volunteered to administer the fund based on its experience in partnering with homeless service providers.
The new funding stream does not supplant homeless service funding presently provided by the county or certain cities.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said the partner cities and Salt Lake County “recognize homeless services as a countywide issue, and they have devoted a portion of their budgets to support this initiative. We’re really looking forward to that coming forward and providing a whole new set of services that heretofore we haven’t been able to provide for homeless in our community.”
There are homeless people from “literally every community in this valley, even Alta. It really is a collective responsibility,” Becker said.
Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini echoed Becker’s sentiments, noting that the communities that contributed to the fund sent a powerful message to people who experience homelessness.
“It’s so critical in our communities to know if you lose your home in any city in Salt Lake County, there are people in that city stepping up to provide some funds, some help and some support,” she said.
Providing services to homeless people in the community occasionally results in tension over competing interests, she said.
“This has an impact on the community. As the business area expands in the homeless area near the homeless shelter, we’re seeing a lot of pushback saying it’s a disturbing influence, and it is. It’s hard to have people who have nothing but what they can carry in plastic bags with no place to go and they’re waiting for a second chance,” she said.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said the beauty of cities and the county coming together to fund the homeless services fund is the recognition that “the problem is regional, and we’re stepping forward with a regional solution.”
Representatives of the nonprofits that will staff the street outreach team thanked city and county officials for their leadership in establishing a new means to fund homeless services.
While VOA Utah and Fourth Street Clinic have long-established outreach efforts intended to meet basic needs and provide health care services and referrals to community resources, many people need housing and intensive case management to successfully transition out of homelessness. That is The Road Home’s forte.
“This is a new opportunity. We have a new funding source and we can put together an innovative intervention,” said Kathy Bray, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Utah.
“VOA has done boots-on-the-street outreach for 20 years now, and we’re going to do more of that in a collaborative manner in an area that right now has many people," she said. "And we want to see what we can do to meet more of them and link them to services, bridging them to behavioral health resources as well as to the clinic and shelter and change the face of what Rio Grande Street and Pioneer Park look like at this moment.”
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