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Letter: An important start to a renewed push to help our unsheltered population

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carrie Reilly joins Black Lives Matter and other groups, to protest the way the health department has been forcing people experiencing homelessness to move in the middle of a pandemic and the coldest time of the year, in front of the Salt Lake Public Health Center on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.

Homelessness in Utah has been a concern for some time and the current pandemic and the job losses and economic hardship that are associated with it are threatening to make even more people and families homeless.

Rep. Steve Eliason from Sandy sponsored HB347 that will restructure the state’s model for helping those experiencing homelessness. Its goal is to simplify the confusing and complex system that is currently in place and will include putting a single person in charge of overseeing the policy to help homeless individuals.

In 2019 on a single day in Utah almost 2,800 people were homeless. Including fear, pain, and loneliness, people experiencing homelessness are more susceptible to health concerns and illnesses, such as COVID-19.

Now more than ever is the time to help and support our unsheltered population. We not only need to help them find shelter; we need to help people permanently by addressing the underlying causes of homelessness.

I applaud the effort of Rep. Eliason for sponsoring and Gov. Cox for signing the bill to help Utah’s unsheltered citizens. It is a start to address the homeless situation in Utah, but we need to not only make the system easier to navigate but we need to provide more resources to the most vulnerable in the state.

Please reach out to your local representatives and ask them to support HB347 and investigate ways to allocate more resources to the homeless population in Utah as well as those who are in danger of becoming homeless.

Melissa Oligario-Morandy, Salt Lake City

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