We can solve chronic homelessness in NCW, Utah expert says
Lloyd Pendleton, the homeless guru who helped the State of Utah virtually eliminate chronic homelessness, told a big crowd at the Pybus Market Event Center Wednesday that our valley has the opportunity to implement similar solutions.
It would take a concerted effort, strong leadership, collaboration, and a consistent strategy, said Pendleton, who is a former executive with Ford Motor Co. and was also a leader in the Mormon Church before heading Utah’s Homeless Task Force.
To clarify, overall homelessness has not declined in Utah since the state implemented Housing First principles. But the state has seen a 91 percent decline in the number of chronically homeless. That’s important because those folks have a huge impact on social services, the law and justice system and on the medical community.
As Pendleton told a big crowd of civic leaders, homeless advocates and concerned citizens at a gathering in the Pybus Market Event Center on Wednesday, these are people who don’t have bootstraps with which to pull themselves up. They have been on the street for years, may have chemical dependency and/or mental health issues that can’t be addressed while they are homeless.
The chronically homeless are the unseen in our communities and we have unfairly saddled law enforcement officers, jails and hospitals with the expense of dealing with the problem.
The bottom line, Pendleton said, is that these individuals are “our brothers and sisters” in a very real sense and we have a moral obligation to provide opportunities for them to rejoin society and live productive lives, Pendleton told us.
Addressing this issue also makes economic sense for our communities. We can cut community costs in half with a Housing First approach compared to the traditional approach, Pendleton said.
Successful communities, he said, must have effective business and political leaders to champion the cause, the organizations involved must work collaboratively and break down silos, and there has to be great compassion and understanding for those who are homeless. “You have some champions — you really do,” he told the crowd.
Addressing the issue also takes a very clear vision built upon the principle that everyone should have access to safe, decent and affordable housing. Pendleton made it clear that he thinks housing is not a right, which suggests that government has to provide it to everyone.
Ultimately, he said, individuals need to make the choice of accepting housing.