Utahns who haven't filed their state tax returns yet can still contribute to the homeless check-off fund. Last year the fund raised $307,000 for 20 programs that assist homeless people or prevent homelessness statewide.

As of March 20, about 9.5 percent of the returns filed contained a donation to the homeless fund. The State Tax Commission had posted $67,623.83 from 15,446 contributors, out of 162,913 tax returns that have been processed so far. The commission anticipates about 670,000 total tax returns this year."The programs funded last year provided food, shelter, counseling, transitional housing, employment services and other important programs to help people who are homeless," said Steve Erickson, member of the State Homeless Coordinating Committee, which oversees dispensing of the fund.

The committee has already sent out requests for proposals on how the Homeless Trust Fund money will be spent. The proposals are due on April 2, and the decisions will be made sometime in May.

"We want to encourage people to consider contributing through their income tax to help solve these important, pressing problems," Erickson said.

This year, a portion of the trust fund account, which includes a $300,000 allocation from the Utah Legislature, can also be used to draw matching federal funds. The federal government recently agreed to provide $3 for every state dollar spent on case management for those people at the homeless shelter who qualify for Medicaid.

Erickson said the committee also expects a dollar-for-dollar match for emergency assistance to prevent mortgage foreclosures and evictions and to help people relocate.

"When that happens, we'll be doing prevention," said Erickson, "and if we want to make a dent, that's where we need to go."

The Legislature established the income tax check-off three years ago. In 1988, about 40,000 Utahns contributed just over $260,000. The next year, 42,000 contributed $370,000.

The average contribution so far this year is $4.38. Last year, the average was just over $7.