State and local governments do not track homeless deaths in Utah

May 9, 2023, 11:31 AM | Updated: 12:30 pm

Salt Lake City could soon have a permanent homeless camp. Victoria Petro, Salt Lake City Council me...

FILE: Tony Lambert moves some of his belongings at his homeless encampment in SLC on Feb 2., 2023 (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– Why isn’t there an official count of how many people die homeless in Utah? After one of the snowiest winters on record, at least one advocate wants to know. 

The Utah Homelessness Services Coordinator, Wayne Niederhauser, told KSL NewsRadio about this lack of accounting in February. “The only tally that we have is that Fourth Street Clinic has a list that they keep,” said Niederhauser.

“I don’t think it’s real accurate. And every year we memorialize those who died in homelessness a couple days before Christmas.”

The number of people who die homeless in Utah are likely inaccurate

Last year’s memorial was a candlelight vigil on December 21, the Winter Solstice. Dozens of mourners and advocates gathered to read the names of at least 159 dead Utahns. Niederhauser said he thinks the true number is higher. 

The Salt Lake Tribune has verified that neither Salt Lake City police, city government, or the Office of the Utah Medical Examiner (UME) has a count either. Niederhauser is pushing the UME to collect data on the housing status of deceased individuals, but that doesn’t mean his office will be able to use the data. 

A Utah law in the way 

Utah law prohibits the UME from sharing a deceased individual’s personal information with anyone other than relatives, legal guardians, criminal attorneys, physicians, and law enforcement. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, this rule blocked Niederhauser last December, when he requested the personal data of five unhoused Utahns found dead in the same week in Salt Lake City.

Those five deaths in quick succession spurred Niederhauser and Salt Lake City officials to create an extra “flex” shelter for times of severe cold. When the state would order a “code blue,” up to 120 beds would become available at libraries and recreation centers in the Millcreek area, plus 340 more across Salt Lake County. Altogether with Salt Lake City’s three homeless resource centers, that made for about 1,100 available beds. 

Still, aggregate information might be publicly available next year. A spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services told the Salt Lake Tribune that UME is in training to better track the housing status of deceased individuals. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Housing + Homelessness

FILE -- The gathering room at the YCC Family Crisis Center in Ogden is pictured on Tuesday, July 9,...

Heather Peterson

Transitional housing for domestic violence victims opening soon in Ogden

Victims of domestic violence will soon have another way to escape dangerous situations in Weber County. The YCC Family Crisis Center is building transitional housing by way of a new 14-unit apartment complex in Ogden to house domestic violence victims. Domestic violence is cited as the reason 22-57% of women experience homelessness by the National […]

5 days ago

The housing market in Utah is competitive and shows minimal signs of slowing....

Aimee Cobabe

Unwelcome Home: Exploring the challenges of buying a home in Utah

The housing market in Utah remains as competitive as ever. Some people are braving it, some just can't stand it.

15 days ago

Nationally, economists think retiring baby boomers downsizing their homes could be a rapid solution...

Don Brinkerhoff

Utah’s housing shortage: Could baby boomers downsizing be the solution?

Nationally, economists think retiring baby boomers downsizing their homes could be a rapid solution to the housing shortage.

17 days ago

Single-family homes under construction in Saratoga Springs are pictured on Tuesday, July 19, 2022....

Adam Small

2023 saw far fewer building permits in Utah, report says

The Ogden-Clearfield metro area had the biggest percentage decline in building permits year-over-year, nose-diving by 34%.

25 days ago

An empty bedroom is seen in an affordable housing building run by Central City Concern, a Portland-...


Micro-apartments are back after nearly a century, as need for affordable housing soars

"Micro-apartments," small single rooms with a shared kitchen or bathroom, are popping up around the country.

28 days ago

Utah's economic growth has slowed year over year, with the Department of Workforce Services reveali...

Eric Cabrera

Fewer people moving to Utah means slower economic growth

Utah's economic growth has slowed, with the Department of Workforce Services revealing fewer people are migrating to Utah than years prior.

30 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

State and local governments do not track homeless deaths in Utah