The Salt Lake homeless shelter needs more money to operate on, that much is clear. Winter is coming. The nights are getting cold. This past week, as many as 11 families and 50 single men asked to stay and were told, "Not tonight."
Part of the problem is that the number of homeless is growing. Almost twice as many people are seeking shelter this year. The shelter has been in operation nearly one year and it is obvious that it needs more tax support to enhance the generous private donations that helped it get started.Last July, when the number of homeless grew to 400 per night, the shelter director had to set a limit on the capacity. Now, because of funding problems, it cannot house more than 240 men, 30 women and 20 families.
While the number of homeless grew during 1989, government funding for the shelter remained essentially the same and private donations dropped off. Many of those generous private donations made in 1988, the year the new building opened, were one-time gifts to get the shelter up and running.
The budget projection looks bleak: For fiscal year 1989-90 the shelter will get one-fourth of its budget from private donations and get one-half its operating budget from federal, state, city and county governments. Most of the funds provided by local governments were actually pass-through federal funds. In any case, one-half and one-fourth only equals three-fourths.
What about the other one-fourth of the operating budget? Where should the rest of the funding for the Homeless Shelter come from?
The only way to put the shelter on firm financial footing, to set a budget that can be counted on, is to increase state, city, county and federal support. Since many of those the shelter helps are sent to it by government agencies, anyway - it seems fair that government allocate more of our tax dollars to the homeless shelter.
Besides, the homeless shelter is giving us good value. At the shelter, homeless people get clothing, food, medical aid, education, and help in finding a job. Half of all the families that have stayed there in the past year are now living on their own. Seventy-five percent of the single men are working part-time - more of them could move out if more low-income housing was available for single people.
The staff at the homeless center knows what it costs to help the homeless of our city. Not just to house them, but to really help them find their way back. If the shelter is going to be more than just a human warehouse it needs enough support to do the job.