When it comes to combating social ills, including homelessness, strength lies in numbers. Yet efforts to shelter those in need along the Wasatch Front too often have lacked widespread governmental and private cooperation.
A "not-in-my-backyard" mentality has led to warehousing large numbers of indigents in downtown Salt Lake City, often in circumstances unbecoming to families or to helping people assimilate back into mainstream society. Society no longer warehouses orphans or any other disadvantaged group. Why should such an old-fashioned and ineffective method be used on the homeless?An upcoming "Homeless Crusade," with broad backing, appears to be a good antidote to this perplexing problem. Endorsed by the Salt Lake Area Council of Governments, the campaign has as its goal raising funds to house, rehabilitate and improve the health of this area's homeless. It is a cause worth supporting.
The crusade will formally kick off March 5 in conjunction with a countywide conference to discuss solutions for homelessness. The confab will bring together the private sector, local governments and the state to establish an endowment fund to underwrite programs aimed at solving a serious problem.
It is a concept that embodies the effectiveness and efficiency of strength in numbers, blending public and private entities in a search for meaningful solutions. An executive committee will be formed to work with the existing Long-Range Committee for the Homeless.
The groups will determine the financial needs of the homeless, taking into consideration long-term housing needs, the need to attain economic independence and ways to improve physical and mental health and rehabilitation services. Once the scope and cost of those needs is determined, a blue-ribbon committee will be organized to raise funds to pay for them.
Both the executive and blue-ribbon committees should cut a wide swath across community interests for maximum effectiveness. Both, with the Long-Range Committee for the Homeless, deserve earnest and widespread private and public support as they go about their efforts.
An estimated 1,000 homeless people are sheltered in Salt Lake City on any given night. The number of displaced families with children has increased disproportionately to the homeless population as a whole. Those are all people in desperate need of a helping hand, a place to call home. The "Homeless Crusade" is a pragmatic, powerful program that promises to make that happen for many.