Each winter, as the nightly temperatures in our valley falls, the number of people turning to our agency for shelter rises. The resulting challenges that our team must address can be grouped into a few basic questions:
- How can we make sure to get everyone who turns to us out of the cold and into warm shelter?
- How can we help to ease the suffering and nourish the hope of each person who turns to us?
- How can we work with people to find a way out of shelter and out of homelessness?
In many ways, the answers to these three questions are as diverse as each person in need. Each of us is unique; an approach that works for one person might be ineffective for someone else.
However, there are definitely some common denominators that help us to address each of the three questions facing us.
The most significant common denominator by which to address homelessness in each of our cities across America is the prevalence of safe, decent, and affordable housing. The extent to which we have access to deeply affordable housing is the extent to which we can prevent future generations from turning to homeless shelters. Salt Lake City, like many other American cities, is behind the demand curve with respect to this kind of housing. We applaud Mayor Becker and his team at Salt Lake City Housing and Neighborhood Development for their recent six point initiative to close the gap that currently exists between the thousands who need this type of housing and the creation of the units necessary to accommodate their need.
For a smaller number of people facing chronic, persistent homelessness, there are often personal issues which also conspire against one’s ability to emerge from homelessness toward a better life. I do not think it necessary to list here many of the complex personal issues that some in our shelters and on our streets are currently facing. More importantly, for people in the throes of these personal crises, supportive services provide people the tools necessary to deal with these challenges. The degree to which we as a community, as a state, and as a nation choose to address these challenges will determine to a great extent the number of people who will ascend from the depths of personal turmoil and succeed in life and in the greater context of society as a whole. It is in this area that we are encouraged by the visionary leadership of Mayor McAdams and his team, that are embarking on a new methodology for addressing the complex social service needs of our communities. The mayor is encouraging the development of social investment bonds as a means by which to cultivate positive outcomes in the area of human services. It is an opportunity for agencies like ours to help people in need, while providing a return on investment for our entire community.
Most importantly, we have you to thank. You have been investors in our worthy efforts, in many cases for decades. It is you to whom we owe our gratitude for each family that finds a new beginning through us. We have you to thank for the hundreds who find refuge from our streets each night. You fuel our compassion; you ignite our resolve. With you beside us, we will develop the means by which shelters are subordinated by the more humane, more sustainable solution: Housing.
- Matthew Minkevitch