LOGAN — The annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count was held in the early morning hours of January 23, 24 and 25, 2020. The PIT count is an annual count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires cities and towns nationwide to conduct in the last 10 days of January. The PIT count provides state and local governments with a snapshot of the extent of homelessness in communities across the state. The goal of the count is to find individuals and families experiencing homelessness, connect them with community resources, and collect and provide data that will help policymakers set benchmarks and measure progress toward making homelessness brief, rare, and non-recurring in the State of Utah.
According to HUD, the definition of unsheltered homelessness is when an individual or family is living on the streets or in cars or other places not meant for human habitation.
Beginning at 4 a.m. on Jan. 23, volunteers from Utah State University, Families Feeding Families, and the wider community worked in teams to briefly interview individuals who were homeless on the night of Jan 22. Volunteers ensured widespread geographic coverage and paid special attention to areas in the community known for homelessness.
The PIT count also counts sheltered individuals at CAPSA and New Hope Crisis Center’s domestic violence shelters.
Volunteer teams were able to provide unsheltered homeless individuals with blankets and care items donated by the Hyrum Humanitarian Center.
Donations from the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints, Einstein’s Bros. Bagels, and Smithfield Sinclair also made this year’s count a successful community effort.
The Bear River Region — comprised of Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties — has traditionally reported PIT count unsheltered homeless figures ranging from one to five individuals on a given night in January. This year, due to record-breaking volunteer turn-out (91) and strategic community partnerships, PIT count volunteers surveyed 43 heads of households and 16 minors who were experiencing unsheltered homelessness on the night of Jan. 22. Four of these individuals were counted in Box Elder County and the remainder were counted in Cache County.
Unsheltered homeless individuals were primarily located sleeping in their cars at retail parking lots, places of work, park and rides, convenience stores, gyms, and other locations; sleeping in storage units and sheds; finding warmth in 24-hour establishments; at transit locations; or passing the nighttime hours walking through the streets.
More than half (53%) of unsheltered homeless households surveyed were families, 62% identified as male, and 42% were experiencing homelessness for the first time. Half of surveyed households had been homeless for 3 months or less.
“A common belief in our community is that homelessness is not an issue here,” said Dr. Jess Lucero, an Associate Professor of Social Work and the University Representative on the Local Homeless Coordinating Committee (LHCC). “A more accurate count of homelessness will hopefully begin to deconstruct this belief and shed light on the plight of many of our fellow community members. The Bear River Region and the wider State of Utah is in an affordable housing crisis. Nearly one in five renter households in our area pay more than 50% of their monthly income for housing costs, making it extremely difficult to manage other financial obligations or weather even minor financial crises.”
The LHCC is currently revising its strategic plan to address homelessness in the Bear River Area. Although our communities have a well-functioning domestic violence shelter system in Cache and Box Elder Counties, there are numerous gaps in our overall homeless services system. These gaps are difficult to fill in the tri-county area, which receives only 1.26% of the state’s overall homeless allocation and pays more than $340,000 across three counties to the State’s Homeless Shelter Cities Mitigation Fund.
“The Bear River LHCC is committed to making homelessness rare, brief, and non-reoccurring in the Cache, Box Elder, and Rich counties,” said LHCC Co-Chair, Stefanie Jones. The strategic plan we are working on will serve as a guiding document to address issues like those found during the count. It’s really hard to see children sleeping in cars and we need solutions quickly.”
Please note that PIT count numbers reported here have not yet been verified by the State of Utah. Official count numbers will be published in August of 2020. Some adjustments to count numbers may be reported at that time.