How do we help the homeless population in the Salt Lake Valley now that it is becoming increasingly colder? Living in Salt Lake City, it seems as though there are individuals experiencing homelessness at every corner, every park, and every TRAX stop, and I ask myself, “What is my community doing to end homelessness?”
I have had the amazing opportunity to work at the Men’s Resource Center for The Road Home and have loved getting to know the men and their stories. I have seen firsthand the strengths and weaknesses of my community and our response to homelessness. The new building in South Salt Lake that offers a bed, meals and services to 300 men a night is life-changing for them, but what about the 17 men I had to turn away one night alone because we didn’t have any beds left and they couldn’t sleep in the lobby due to it being a fire hazard? It is heartbreaking to look into a person’s eyes as they ask me, “Well, what am I supposed to do?”
St. Vincent De Paul’s emergency winter shelter was set to open Oct. 14, which gives many more people shelter from the snow, but I want to see my community doing more. Solutions of rapid-rehousing programs, creating a coordinated approach, and developing an effective crisis response will connect individuals with resources and services to address the issue with long-term solutions rather than Band-Aid fixes.
The issue of homelessness affects everyone in our community. Salt Lake has already made massive improvements in the last few years and I want to see that growth continue. I have learned the importance of meeting people where they are at and acting without judgment. I’m involved in the fight to end homelessness — are you?
Katelyn Gross, Salt Lake City