On a given day, as many as 2,500 homeless haunt the streets in Utah's cities and towns. An estimated one-third are mentally ill; 15 percent are families with children.

All of them are people who need help.Members of the State Homeless Coordinating Committee are asking Utahns to think of these people when they rush to beat the April 15 filing deadline for paying state taxes. For the first time, the state forms (line 20 long form, 11 on short form) let the taxpayer check off a donation for $2, $5, $10 or a specified amount to go into a fund to benefit the homeless. The contributions, while collected through the tax process, are not actual tax dollars but voluntary donations from those who wish to participate.

Senior design students at Brigham Young University and staff from the Innovations advertising firm are designing a campaign to promote the checkoff. Gov. Bangerter will formally launch the campaign later this month.

The bill that created the tax checkoff, sponsored last year by Rep. Frank Prante, D-Logan, "is quite specific in what it wants funded," said Robin Arnold-Williams, Department of Social Services. "It is the intent of the law to serve families and mentally ill homeless. But no decisions have been made yet on what programs the money will fund."

By law, 20 percent of the money will be used in communities outside of Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. Lawmakers last year were concerned that homelessness is a statewide problem, but all the solutions are along the Wasatch Front. Costs to administer the donations are limited to 3 percent of the amount collected.

The State Homeless Coordinating Committee will look at proposals from programs that want to serve the homeless and decide how the money should be used. The coordinating committee is made up of representatives from a number of agencies and groups serving the homeless.

Preference will be given to projects that provide special services to meet the needs of families and the mentally ill, emergency housing services, self-sufficiency efforts and treatment programs to deal with the effects of substance abuse or a handicap. The requests for proposals will go out this spring.

The committee is hoping to get proposals for new, innovative programs that aren't already being funded, said committee chairman Maun Alston.

How to donate:

Check off a donation of $2, $5, $10 or another specified amount for the fund to benefit the homeless on line 20 of the long or line 11 of the short state tax form.