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Salt Lake County Officials, Volunteers Conduct Homelessness Survey

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than 250 volunteers hit the streets in the middle of the night to paint a picture of homelessness in Salt Lake County.

In the annual Point-In-Time Count, community members joined the Volunteers of America to survey those sleeping on the streets Saturday.

According to officials with the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office, the volunteers had more than 500 interactions with homeless individuals.

Map of areas targeted across Salt Lake County and interactions with homeless individuals.

While those were preliminary numbers and there could be duplicated interactions, local leaders agreed the number of interactions was too high.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson walked the streets at 4 a.m. handing out flyers to those without a safe place to sleep.

“Anyone who needs a bed will get a good night’s sleep,” she said, referring to the new overflow shelter in Sugar House

Wilson talked to several individuals who are categorized as “street homeless.” She said none of them were reckless or belligerent.

“They were very polite,” Wilson said. “They were looking for housing and they weren’t using. The people I interfaced with were healthy, and they want to be on a path to success.”  

Wilson acknowledged the decision to close the downtown Salt Lake City shelter operated by The Road Home in November, with winter on the doorstep, has had a bumpy start.

“We are getting there,” she said.  “There is a lot of work to be done, but we have all the people in the right place now and it’s a much safer environment.”

Wilson and other volunteers started in the Sugar House area and worked their way to the Rio Grande District early Saturday morning.

“I was happy to see there were not a lot of people at Sugar House Park. There were none in Fairmount Park in the hours we were there,” Wilson said. “This is a front-burner issue for me. I have an entire team at the county working on the homelessness crisis.”

Salt Lake County officials were working on an app that will detail the homeless jail population, the homeless street count and homeless shelter numbers. This daily information will give officials the most up-to-date data to better combat the issue. 

Salt Lake County officials also said they saw more volunteers participate in this January’s homeless count project than ever before.