clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Letter: Importance of funding

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
Deseret News

The Deseret News’ recent editorial piece calling for immediate action to help homeless people in the Rio Grande area seems like sound advice on its face. The problem with this call to action is that it claims “broken windows” tactics like increased police presence and tightened enforcement of anti-homeless laws (laws that target activities such as loitering, panhandling and camping or sleeping in public) will actually benefit the homeless. In fact, these tactics exacerbate the root causes of poverty and homelessness by burdening an already disadvantaged community with tickets they cannot afford and petty criminal records that discourage employers from seriously considering them as applicants. The Deseret News should instead advocate for the provision of material resources that people experiencing homelessness actually need: access to health care, affordable housing and a living wage.

While threats to Medicaid at the federal level have been postponed for the moment, proposed state-level changes to Medicaid waiver services include new work requirements, a lifetime cap of 60 months, and an enrollment cap for adults without children who are chronically homeless and/or in need of substance use or mental health treatment. These changes will create disruptive gaps in coverage, thus making it harder for transient populations to maintain access to the treatment and recovery services they need.

Similarly, affordable housing and a living wage are increasingly out of reach for Salt Lake's homeless population. Despite the city's boom in apartment development, few rentals are available below market rate. And according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent is unaffordable for a person working full-time at the federal minimum wage in all 50 states. In Utah specifically, the coalition estimates that a minimum wage worker would need to work 94 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski is right to emphasize the importance of funding when dealing with an expanding homeless population, and she is right to insist we cannot in good conscience “arrest our way” out of Salt Lake’s homelessness crisis. If, like the Pioneer Park Coalition, your goal is simply to relocate the homeless into someone else’s backyard for the sake of business and real estate development, by all means continue pretending that increasing the population size of our already overcrowded county jails for small infractions like camping or loitering amounts to “helping” the homeless. The rest of us must continue to talk and make the funding requests necessary to materially benefit this marginalized and maligned community in the long-term.

Sarah Manley

Salt Lake City