Help the homeless in Utah by shattering myths, says Utah advocate

Jan 27, 2022, 3:49 PM | Updated: 4:00 pm
A new report from ACLU criticizes police in Salt Lake City for their handling of people experiencin...
A new report from ACLU criticizes police in Salt Lake City for their handling of people experiencing homelessness (Scott Winterton, Deseret News).
(Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY —   The leader of a social services agency wants more Utahns to know more about those experiencing homelessness in Utah. With education and understanding, Michelle Flynn, executive director of The Road Home, said more and better help can be provided.

The hard truths about homelessness

Better education begins with the numbers. Last year in Utah, 3,131 people were homeless, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Almost half of all homeless citizens have worked a job in the last month. More than 10% of the homeless are veterans, and 8 in 10 LGBTQ youths who live on the streets do so because they were kicked out of their family home.

And according to Know Homelessness:

  • 80% of people experiencing homelessness are temporarily homeless due to sudden changes in their lives.
  • 50% of homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.

Flynn sat down with Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson to address myths about who the homeless are and what you can do to get more people into houses in your community.


Homeless people on Utah streets

“Tell us about the homeless population as it relates to women and children,” Boyd asked.

“About a third of the people that we provide a shelter to are actually families with children,” Flynn said.

“What do we actually know about the [work] engagement level of those facing homelessness,” Boyd asked.

“Many of the individuals who we serve are working, and are working when they become homeless,” said Flynn, adding, “There’s a significant upfront cost to getting back into your own home.” She cited deposits and application fees as examples.

Related: Are there enough beds at homeless shelters? Picture of freezing man has some people doubting

While it’s estimated that 25% of the U.S. homeless population is employed, factors such as wages and high housing costs complicate being able to afford a home, according to the Human Impact, a Christianity-based not-for-profit in Dallas, Texas.

Homeless veterans in Utah

“Let’s look at two groups . . . our veterans and then some of our LGBTQ youth that are on the streets,” Boyd said.

According to insurance research organization Policy Advice:

  • Almost 40,000 veterans are without shelter in the US on any given night.
  • Veterans account for 11% of homeless adults in the US.

“One in 10 chronically homeless individuals is a veteran,” Flynn said. “Here at The Road Home, we have a housing team that is specifically focused on veterans. And no matter where a veteran is in our community, they will show up. Anybody can call and let them know. We will work with that veteran to get them connected.

. . . and LGBT kids

It’s estimated that about 7% of youth in the United States are LGBTQ, while 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ, according to True Colors United.

“LGBTQ youth who are experiencing homelessness are homeless because they were forced to leave their homes because of families that didn’t support them,” Flynn said.

She added because of their youth, they likely don’t have much work history and probably have not lived outside their family home before — which makes them a particularly vulnerable homeless group.

How to help

“Let’s talk quickly about some of the things that we can do. How can we be helpful? How can we engage?” Boyd asked.

Flynn said increasing your understanding of homelessness can help dispel the myths about who homeless people are. That understanding can help you when you reach out to your local elected officials and ask them what they are doing to defeat homelessness in your community.

Human connection is vital to people experiencing homelessness, she said.

“It’s not uncommon for me to have a conversation with someone who says they haven’t had a conversation with anybody in days or weeks or even months, just because people tend to turn away from them on the streets,” Flynn said.

You can support The Road Home by donating here.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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Help the homeless in Utah by shattering myths, says Utah advocate