By the end of 2015, the chronically homeless population of Utah may be virtually gone. And the secret is quite simple:
Give homes to the homeless.
“We call it housing first, employment second,” said Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force.
Even Pendleton used to think trying to eradicate homelessness using such an approach was a foolish idea.
“I said: ‘You guys must be smoking something. This is totally unrealistic,'” Pendleton said.
But the results are hard to dispute.
In 2005, Utah was home to 1,932 chronically homeless. By April 2015, there were only 178 — a 91 percent drop statewide.
“It’s a philosophical shift in how we go about it,” Pendleton said. “You put them in housing first … and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless.”
Chronically homeless persons — those living on the streets for more than a year, or for four times in three years, and have a debilitating condition — make up 10 percent of Utah’s homeless population but take up more than 50 percent of the state’s resources for the homeless.