Target: Lloyd Pendleton, Director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force
Goal: Commend “Housing First” program for setting an example for other states to end chronic homelessness
Utah’s plan to end chronic homelessness has been the subject of countless recent articles because it is getting so close to reaching its goal, and it has been inspiring other states and cities to pursue similar strategies. In 2005, the state conducted a study comparing the average annual cost of jail time and emergency room care for a single person suffering from chronic homelessness ($16,670) to the annual cost of housing that individual and providing them with a social worker ($11,000), and concluded that the moral solution is also the most cost-effective way to approach the issue of chronic homelessness.
People experiencing homelessness often do not have the resources to protect themselves from getting sick, especially in places where the cold weather makes sleeping outside highly dangerous, and they require more emergency services than people who have warm, safe houses. So Utah’s “Housing First” program selected 17 individuals living on Salt Lake City streets who on average had experienced homelessness for 25 years; then they gave those people permanent housing in the form of apartments as well as case workers to enable them to become self-sufficient citizens. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, Utah started by empowering those in need and not adding to their immense stress. At the beginning of the project, 2,000 Utah denizens were considered chronically homeless, and by 2012 that number had been reduced by 74 percent; the program is well on its way to its 2015 goal of ending chronic homelessness, and it will make Utah the first state to achieve such a goal. The “Housing First” model has been adopted by a few other communities with great success since Utah’s program began, even Wyoming, the state providing the least shelter for its homeless populations in the country.
By signing this petition, you are thanking Director Pendleton for recognizing that providing shelter is the first step in empowering people experiencing homelessness in our communities. You are encouraging him to continue spreading the successes of the “Housing First” model to other states in need of a permanent, humane solution to chronic homelessness.
Dear Director Pendleton,
Your “Housing First” program is the only answer to chronic homelessness in our country, for moral reasons and for financial reasons, in case human compassion is not reason enough. Too many people suffer from homelessness in our streets, and are provided only temporary solutions that put them back in the streets, back in emergency rooms, and back in jail. Homelessness is a condition, not a crime, and we need to recognize that those suffering from it need our help, not our judgment or pity for a situation we do not understand.
Thank you for spearheading the “Housing First” program in Utah and for leading it to success. Most of all, thank you for espousing this solution in other states badly in need of it, particularly in Wyoming communities where those experiencing homelessness suffer more from lack of shelter than in any other state.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: C. G. P. Grey via Wikimedia Commons