Helping the Homeless in Salt Lake County

Its sad to see how widespread is the sort of bias which I described a couple weeks ago. Despite the mandate to lift the wretched from their terrible circumstances, so we would rather push them aside. Just yesterday, KCPW reported that many citizens in West Valley were displeased that the county was breaking ground on a housing project for homeless seniors.

Ironically, the Housing First initiative has proven a remarkably effective method by which to help people move past homelessness. Having a home provides an anchor in the lives of the otherwise homeless, a sense of stability. With a more stable emotional state, these people are better able to respond to treatment and deal with the issues that have hindered them (whether that be substance abuse, emotional trauma, or mental illness), and get on the path to becoming contributing members of society (hear more about Housing First from KCPW and this NPR special investigative series). If these citizens of West Valley were to embrace this opportunity to serve the less fortunate among us, they would actually be minimizing any risk which the homeless people might pose. I’m glad that ground was broken, and that the project is going forth.

I know of one employee of the Salt Lake Public Library who was homeless several years ago. He was a regular at the library as he tried to stay warm or find shelter. But instead of being turned out as some reprobate, he was embraced by the library staff. When a custodial position came open, he was offered employment and a library staff mentor. With the encouragement and support of the staff, he developed into an excellent employee, has become full-time, has long term housing, and has become a “normal” member of society.

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is one in which we consider the many blessings we enjoy, including the relative material abundance we enjoy. Many in society also spend a little time thinking about those who enjoy less, and help participate in food drives and other worthy causes to help those who want. I wonder if we can do more; if we can think about, participate in, and support long term solutions to the problems of poverty, hunger, and suffering. After all, “love thy neighbor” should be more than a couple cans of food on during a specific holiday season. It is about comforting and supporting our brothers and sisters, even the homeless ones, throughout the year.

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11 Responses to “Helping the Homeless in Salt Lake County”

  1. Allie Says:

    My 6-year-old helped with the food drive that the youth group my husband and I work with did over the summer. He didn’t understand where the food went and why we were gathering it, so we explained to him that some people didn’t have enough food to eat, so people donate food that is given to people who need it.

    A few weeks ago in school, there was a food drive, and he hauled his little backpack to school every day with as much food as he could carry.

  2. Aaron Orgill Says:

    This breaks my heart. So many people think it’s great if the government wants to help the homeless, as long as it’s not in their neighborhood, and they don’t have to actually participate in serving these undesirables. To me, this is the first thing the government should be spending money on first. Even ahead of such basics as the RSL stadium.

    I’m glad to hear about the little guy at the food drive. Little kids just get it, and haven’t grown calloused to the idea of someone who is cold or hungry. I wish we could all be more like them.

  3. jennifer Says:

    Yes, children have an amazing capacity for compassion and kindness. My children’s gradeschool also does an annual food drive. The past few years they have collected more than 10,000 items for the food bank (it is a rather large gradeschool, with more than 1,000 students).
    Thanks for the library story Derek. It’s amazing what respect and concern allow to flourish. I applaud the library staff for encouraging and believing in that guy.
    Too bad that groups like Housing First have more uphill than necessary. I’ve heard similar stories from Habitat for Humanity. Makes me angry.

  4. Allie Says:

    I forgot my main point (I got caught up in how sweet my 6-year-old is).

    When we told him that some people didn’t have money to buy food, or a house to live in, he was shocked, and upset. Too many of us lose that as we grow up, and figure if people are in that situation, they must have done something to deserve it.

    No one deserves to sleep out in the cold, or go hungry.

  5. Sammy Jackson Says:

    Thank for little one’s because they have bigger heart than adults and when set there mind to do something they do it.they are God’s little one’s who have heart of gold.Now only if the one’s who sit in washington,DC could learn from these little one then things would be different because they would have compassion and not creed for power,money or title.”yes” No deservets to sleep under bridges are in the woods or any place that not their home.so remember children will help children because they see what we as adults cannot see, because we are caught up and keeping up with the jones and teaching our kids as they grow up do the same thing.Thank
    God for the few who still have a child heart and care about those around them.

  6. WP Says:

    For the LDS in WVC and anywhere there is no more powerful sermon than this or these words from King Benjamin:
    “21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
    22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
    23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are arich as pertaining to the things of this world.
    24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
    25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.
    26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may awalk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the cpoor, every man according to that which he hath, such as dfeeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.”

  7. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Yes, Allie, your kids are awefully sweet (not to mention cute). The first part was great, But thanks for finishing the story all the same. As everyone else here has noted, it goes to show what the Savior meant when he told us to be as little children. How sad that so many among us become jaded about the plight of the disadvantaged.

  8. Allie Says:

    Over Thanksgiving I went to church with my inlaws and found it (more than) a little frustrating that “we live where we do because we were more righteous in the preexistence” was being passed around in sunday school. Thankfully someone stepped up before I had to to say that we should be cautious judging other people’s preexistence-righteousness.

    It’s frustrating that so many people feel this way- such a sense of entitlement for the blessings we have.

    Where much is given, much is required, I myself am guilty of getting caught up in daily life and not thinking about how I can help others. That’s not a nice thing to realize.

  9. mfranti Says:

    i’m proudly wearing my KCPW fleece…

    i appreciate your posts on the homeless in our fair city. I’ve done a bit of volunteer work in the community but i have yet to do some with the homeless.

    my DH and I are hoping to put together a little in the spring when we have a little more time.

  10. mfranti Says:

    how do like that?

    edit: put together a little burrito project in the…

  11. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Looks like a great project, Mfranti! I’m intrigued. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    I pretty much listen to KCPW 24/7. What a fantastic community resource!

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