Local faith leaders call for federal relief funds to be used to end homelessness in Salt Lake County

Rev. Brigette Weier of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church speaks as Faith leaders urge Salt Lake County government officials to use federal housing funds to alleviate the homelessness of families, people with disabilities and the elderly in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 8th, to reduce. 2021. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Coalition of Religious Communities faith leaders pitched tents outside the Salt Lake County Government Center Thursday to speak with district officials to end homelessness by providing $ 45 million of federal funds raised by the district through the American Rescue Plan Act is obtained.

Five of the nine members of the Salt Lake City Council attended, along with representatives from the Office of Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

ARPA, passed in March 2021, will provide Salt Lake County with $ 225 million in federal funding over the next two years to be invested in the community to help it recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill includes funding to combat homelessness, as well as funding to expand unemployment benefits, provide $ 1,400 in payments to individuals, paid emergency leave, expand child tax breaks, increase education funding, and provide grants to small businesses and local governments, and others Facilitation programs.

The coalition is calling for 20% of this funding to be used to build housing needed to reduce homelessness for families, people with disabilities and the elderly.

“Opportunities like this aren’t often,” said Ebony Tyler of the Granger Community Christian Church. “We can’t wait any longer. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It could happen to any of us.”

Coalition leaders cited the success of the Housing First program in Utah, which aims to house unhodged people first and then focus on meeting their other needs once they have the security and stability of a home.

Pastor Brigette Weier of the Lutheran Church of our Savior read John 14: 2 from the Bible: “There are many apartments in my house.”

“There is indeed room for everyone. We know that. There is a room of love, security and dignity for all human beings,” she said. “There is room for everyone and there is a room for everyone.”

The funds are to be used to cover the up-front costs for the infrastructure, such as For example, creating permanent housing for low-income families, renovating motels, creating more shelters, and investing in drug treatment.

The money would come back later in the form of a healthier community and economy, added Pastor Weier.

“Nobody deserves to sleep on the street, especially in harsh weather conditions during a global pandemic. Everyone is entitled to adequate accommodation regardless of their situation. No matter what decisions he made, “Tyler said in a press release.

Tyler faced housing insecurity as a child and knows the shame and humility that came with the experience. People assume that their surroundings are taken care of, but the reality is that more and more people are losing their homes every day due to eviction, health problems, job loss and many other reasons, she explained.

“I remember how heavy the room would be if he were faced with another eviction notice,” she said. “Now hundreds of children and families are asking what will happen to them. Nobody was prepared for a pandemic and its aftermath.”

Speakers paid particular attention to the impact of homelessness on children, with increases in domestic violence and mental health, and decreases in education and personal safety.

Rev. Curtis Price stated that the most common age for unhodged people is 1 year.

Adding a financial and local context to the discussion, he noted that Utah has just experienced one of the country’s best economic rebounds from the pandemic, with wealthy property developers creating an abundance of high quality luxury homes as Salt Lake County’s homelessness worsens.

“Campsites are popping up all over town and all three properties are … almost at full capacity since they opened,” said Rev. Price. “If we can’t do this now, when will we ever have that much money?”

Councilors Aimee Winder Newton, Arlyn Bradshaw, and Laurie Stringham and Kerri Nakamura, Wilson’s chief of staff, spoke out in favor of using part of the ARPA funds to combat homelessness in Salt Lake County.

“(Having five councilors here) is a rare occurrence outside of a council meeting, and we’re not usually here on a Thursday afternoon. We came down to listen to you, ”Bradshaw told parishioners who attended the event.

Bill Tibbits, deputy director of the Crossroads Urban Center, said the center and coalition would be attending council meetings and campaigning for this cause for the next two years when ARPA funding arrives.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.



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