To the editor:
I am writing to inform community members of an issue I believe is of great importance. The homeless in Cache County are ignored, minimized, and passed on to larger cities to “deal with.” I believe the time is overdue for a homeless shelter in Cache County.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts counts the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community. Contrary to stereotypes regarding homelessness, in January 2020 (before the pandemic), more than half of the homeless found in our county during this survey were families, not individuals.
This survey does not include those homeless in our valley who take the bus to Ogden to stay in the homeless shelter there. Working at a hospital, I can attest to the fact that we often discharge homeless patients with a bus ticket to Ogden so they can stay at the homeless shelter there. This takes them away from established sources of support like doctors, therapists, and resources they are familiar with. These are people who were seriously ill days before.
In 2018, the State Legislature passed SB 235 requiring all Utah counties without homeless shelters to “redirect a portion of sales tax revenue to cities that do have homeless shelters.” Initially, Logan city took $100,000 from the low-income housing fund to replace the loss of revenue. It’s estimated that a total of $250,000 is withheld across all cities in the county. I would prefer this money stay in Cache County to assist with our own homeless citizens rather than being sent to other cities to support their homeless and emergency infrastructures. Taking money from affordable housing programs is counter-intuitive to any efforts to remedy homelessness. This will only create more homelessness.
The social work department at Utah State University conducted a study to better understand the homeless population in Cache County. The results of this study show that homelessness in Cache County is not just people pan-handling by Wal-Mart. The vast majority of the homeless in Cache county are unseen, living in cars or camping up the canyon. I would encourage you to look at the results of this study. They are shocking, and as mentioned before, most of the homeless population in our county are families.
To avoid revenue being sent to other cities, Cache County would need to provide a 60-bed homeless shelter. I believe Cache Valley is large enough for it to start providing these kinds of services. Unfortunately, I’m sure many of our residents have the opinion of “Sure, that’s nice, but…not in my backyard.” Former Utah State Representative Curt Webb said that “homeless people are not foreigners, they are neighbors and friends who found themselves down on their luck.”