Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent! For real?

Lots of talk about the “homeless problem” these days, especially in Eureka. After some comments and a few emails about Utah’s handling of the “problem”, we decided to see what we could find out.

Here’s a couple of interesting stories. One is clip from The Daily Show that’s well worth checking out and the second is a story from Nation of Change, also worth reading.


sleeping in the street

Earlier this month, Hawaii State representative Tom Bower (D) began walking the streets of his Waikiki district with a sledgehammer, and smashing shopping carts used by homeless people. “Disgusted” by the city’s chronic homelessness problem, Bower decided to take matters into his own hands — literally. He also took to rousing homeless people if he saw them sleeping at bus stops during the day.

Bower’s tactics were over the top, and so unpopular that he quickly declared “Mission accomplished,” and retired his sledgehammer. But Bower’s frustration with his city’s homelessness problem is just an extreme example of the frustration that has led cities to pass measures that effective deal with the homeless by criminalizing homelessness.

City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates.

Last year, Tampa, Florida — which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city — passed an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping in public, or “storing personal property in public.” The city followed up with a ban on panhandling downtown, and other locations around the city.

Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it.

Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.

This trend makes Utah’s accomplishment even more noteworthy. In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.

How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

It sounds like Utah borrowed a page from Homes Not Handcuffs, the 2009 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless. Using a 2004 survey and anecdotal evidence from activists, the report concluded that permanent housing for the homeless is cheaper than criminalization. Housing is not only more human, it’s economical.

This happened in a Republican state! Republicans in Congress would probably have required the homeless to take a drug test before getting an apartment, denied apartments to homeless people with criminal records, and evicted those who failed to become self-sufficient after five years or so. But Utah’s results show that even conservative states can solve problems like homelessness with decidedly progressive solutions.

Original source:



13 thoughts on “Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent! For real?

  1. No mention, though, of what the formerly homeless do during the day when they’re not sleeping at their newly acquired home. Are they out panhandling? Collecting trash (as we’ve seen in the encampments)? Fighting or stealing? Or doing whatever else annoys so many about the homeless, which includes just hanging out certain places?

    I’m not necessarily criticizing Utah’s action. Just suggesting as I have before that where the homeless sleep is really a minor issue. It’s what they do when up and around that causes most concern.


  2. I’m guessing this comment doesn’t get posted, but…..you leave out a small detail regarding the Utah program: the 78 percent reduction is of CHRONIC homelessness. Federal definition of chronic is homeless for a year straight or four instances in three years, AND a disability. Before the program, 14 percent of the homeless were considered “chronic”. 86 percent were left to fend for themselves.


  3. What happened to the tiny house concept discussed previously on the Tuluwat Examiner?


  4. Utah may be conservative but Salt Lake City is far more progressive than any other city on the nation. That is primarily due to the influence of the Mormon Church’s best ideas instead of its most regressive which can be found across the religious spectrum. SLC has used compassion to deal with drug and substance abuse, gang issues and crime as well as with mental health and homelessness which go hand in hand.

    So it’s not that Utah is conservative it’s what it does when it comes to humanity and they have seemed to find some humane treatments for their fellow human beings while we deal with the likes of Arkley and Bohn, Jager and Brady whose entire worldview is that the unemployed, mentally and physically handicapped and particularly those who have never had any bootstraps to pull up are nothing more than parasites on society.

    SLC also has ten times the population of Eureka and more resources from both local and state sources to deal with the issue.


  5. I once met a libertarian, who, when he opened his mouth to give his opinions on anything, disclosed the fact that he was a complete a-hole. Not half-an-a-hole, but a completely puckered, well rounded, no corners, true red white and blue, a-hole.
    I’m not necessarily criticizing libertarians for being what they are. They can’t help it. In fact, I’m just suggesting that those libertarians who have mouths are really only a minor issue. But, oh boy, when they open those mouths that’s what causes the most concern! Is there anything that can be done about this?,

    On behalf of the Sensibly Concerned (as I know I speak for all of us.)

    When one ASSUMES that every homeless person is homeless by choice and that ALL they do is fight, steal or “hang out in certain places,” which annoys “so many”, when they’re not actually sleeping wherever it is they sleep, it can only result in one thing for the assumee: A severe case of uncontrollable concern diarrhea that splatters everyone who comes within range. Go back to bed, Fred.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re way off base, as far as I’m concerned. The problems with the “homeless” on the streets are very well known. You’re simply not acknowledging them.

      I’m not saying all homeless aren’t capable of productive and “normal” lives. I’m saying the problems with those that most are upset about, are from those who will might well be the same problems whether they have a house, or not. Jerk.


      • So, just for clarity sake; how many homeless “capable of productive and ‘normal lives” do we have in Eureka and how many have those “problems [that upset you] whether they have a house or not’?
        Any numbers? Some percentages there for me? Anything besides we all know what I’m talking about?

        Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s the point Milt, isn’t it?

    History is rich with examples of some group of “those people” typically delineated by class, race, or sex, demanded to climb a ladder with its steps conveniently removed…to pull themselves up by “boots lacking their straps”.

    I called the local EDD, told them I was over 50 and needed training assistance. They said “sure” but first, I must, “prove I was laid-off due to outsourcing”!

    Not everyone will be employable after job training, not every homeless person will socially reintegrate once housed.

    Yet, until we provide bare-bones shelter, food, healthcare and employment to those that need it, there’s no legitimate right to criticize the destitute.

    Which leaves a very uncomfortable, but common, explanation for all the bigotry…

    “Schadenfreude”, a German word so relevant, the English language adopted it with its German spelling.

    It begins in childhood when parents insist that the kids, “eat all your peas, because there’s someone starving in India”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker.”

    I hope the Tea Party adopts this solution and pushes it. As far as I’m concerned, they can say it was Reagan’s idea, polished by Dick Cheney until it glistened, and complain that regressive “progressives” were incapable of coming up with a cost-effective solution. If that happens, all progressives need do is keep our mouths shut for a change.


  8. “Keep their mouths shut for a change”?

    Unless actively sought-out, “progressives” and their views have negligible mainstream access and they serve on few elected or appointed offices…especially in Humboldt County.


  9. What an unfortunate coincidence that the EPD Chief Mills and Whoever has a solution to the homeless problem..actually a whole bog of problems..but he has a plan.

    And then coincidentally then there is a budget issue..like who knew that would happen huh?

    Goodbye Homeless Problem Solution.

    ‘Don’t Blame Us, We tried’™


    • Healthy skepticism was appropriate from the start. Now it should be, “I’ll believe it when I see it. Also, I’m not buying the bridge.”

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Mills was Eureka Citizen! Check out the Operation Safe Streets FB site (OSS Eureka). I could be wrong, but……


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