A Nationwide Event Helps Combat Salt Lake City Homelessness | Valley Cares
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November 21, 2019 By Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral Health

A Nationwide Event Helps Combat Salt Lake City Homelessness

If you are one of the many people concerned about the growing seriousness of the Salt Lake City homeless situation, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week presents an opportunity to make a positive impact. Some individuals, sadly, are quick to point fingers and blame others for their unfortunate circumstances, but a greater awareness of the many factors contributing to Salt Lake City homelessness can change attitudes while also helping those in need.

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A Way To Change Perceptions While Also Fostering Assistance

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an event that began 44 years ago to bring attention to these two critical issues and their causes while also fostering positive change. Awareness and education are often critical factors in solving widespread problems. The engagement of others can be a significant factor in remedying a serious issue such as homelessness, and an understanding of what brings about such negative conditions is an important first step.

Homelessness is not a choice, and individuals and families who find themselves without a place to live are often not far removed from others with secure housing arrangements. The intent behind the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is to not only bring the issues into a more personal and relatable focus but to educate the public on the causes. At the same time, the weeklong event serves to build support, foster advocacy and help enlist participation in volunteer activities.

Starting in 1975, the first annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness event was held at Villanova University. Each year, volunteers and community members come together to help raise the awareness of homelessness and how it could affect all types of Americans. Participants of the event include hundreds of thousands of advocates throughout the nation who have helped raise millions of dollars for homeless service providers in their local areas.

What Causes Homelessness?

Some homeless individuals find themselves in their circumstances because they have lost a well-paying job or were uninsured and in need of expensive medical treatments. Either set of circumstances can cause a single person or family to fall behind.

More than half a million Americans across the U.S. experience homelessness on any given night. With 43.1 million Americans living under the federal poverty level, it is not surprising to learn that another family has been evicted for non-payment of rent. In addition to financial issues, many homeless individuals have been thrust into their painful circumstances by chronic and often serious mental health issues. In some cases, there was a need to escape the threat of domestic violence.

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The Utah and Salt Lake City Homeless Situation

Homelessness has increased in Salt Lake City over the past two years. Salt Lake County is where greater than two-thirds of the Beehive State’s homeless population can be found. Overall, the number of individuals who were unable to sleep indoors in Utah almost doubled since 2016, as noted in a state report.

There were more than 2,000 homeless individuals in Salt Lake City according to estimates made in 2018, and an alarming 35% of Utah’s homeless population consists of families. Forty-five percent of the Salt Lake City homeless population is also struggling with a mental illness that affects their ability to find a job or hang on to one long enough to get back on their feet.

How You Can Help

Valley Behavioral Health in Salt Lake City works with other organizations across the valley to service more than 2,000 homeless clients. Sponsored events and activities not only help clients feel they are important enough to be worthy of attention, but the events also help to raise the resources required to fulfill each individual’s personal needs.

With your participation, Valley can bring attention to the issues of hunger and homelessness in Salt Lake City. Our events promote and help fund advocacy, service, education, and fundraising programs.

Valley’s partners include The Road Home, Fourth Street Clinic and the Salt Lake County Housing Authority, all of which benefit from your volunteer work, donations and efforts to raise greater awareness of Salt Lake City homeless outreach programs.

Housing Programs

Valley provides eight apartments for those who require permanent housing and who can live with minimal supervision such as weekly visits. There are also 25 transitional units for severely mentally ill individuals who need a temporary home until they are able to move into permanent housing. We also provide 24 units for individuals who have a history of being homeless along with substance abuse or mental health issues. Our program offers peer support, skills development and assistance with medication.

Some individuals find that staying in a shelter temporarily will meet their needs and enable them to get back on their feet. Our various HUD-subsidized programs are designed to help Salt Lake City homeless families and individuals regain self-sufficiency.

Valley Storefront Program

Individuals who are severely mentally ill or have issues with substance abuse participate in our Valley Storefront outpatient program. Many in the Salt Lake City homeless community who were previously reluctant to seek treatment now benefit from our non-traditional approach. Our goal is to end hunger and homelessness, particularly for those individuals who may also be struggling with a severe mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder.

Why Your Help Is Important

With your assistance, we can collectively end hunger and homelessness not just in Salt Lake City, but also across the nation. Every small action taken on the local level produces an amplified effect, which expands exponentially. By working closely with the members and volunteers in our own community to remedy the Salt Lake City homeless crisis, we can build upon our positive efforts to generate greater awareness of what needs to be done to combat homelessness across the nation.

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