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Utah’s homeless population up slightly in 2018

(Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

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SALT LAKE CITY — According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of homeless in Utah is slightly up from a year ago.

HUD’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that 2,876 people in Utah experienced homelessness on a single day.

That accounts for an overall 0.8 percent increase from 2017, an 8 percent increase in homeless veterans, and a 2 percent increase in homeless families with children.

Community advocate Pamela Atkinson points out that it’s difficult to count those numbers accurately each year, and that the method being used this year has changed from the year before.

"There are always people who are able to avoid being counted," Atkinson said. "The point-in-time count that we do across the country is not always accurate, because it means on one day of the year; we’re trying to count people in 24 hours."

Either way, Atkinson said there's still a problem, and people need help. While unemployment numbers are good, she said that the homeless population is often not qualified for many of the jobs available.

"They need training for construction jobs and other jobs, and tech jobs," Atkinson said, pointing out that there is a need for more minimum-wage jobs.

Atkinson also said a major challenge is in finding affordable housing. She said there is currently a need for over 45,000 units statewide.

"That is playing a huge role in people who are just becoming homeless," Atkinson said. "There are some people who are waiting for alternative housing to come on board — that means single room occupancies, and the tiny houses."

Atkinson said there are more affordable housing projects that will become available in 2019, which should help with some of the demand.

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