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Study shows women and homelessness in Utah on the rise

By Genelle Pugmire - | Dec 8, 2022

Sammy Jo Hester, Daily Herald

Vicki Hawes volunteers at the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. The United Way database links volunteers with opportunities like those at the food bank. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald

It is estimated that 3,131 Utah residents experienced homelessness on any given day in 2020, and 24,037 people accessed homeless services in Utah sometime during 2021.

Those numbers are part of the findings in a research snapshot on Utah Women and Homelessness from the Utah Women & Leadership Project, led by Susan R. Madsen.

On Tuesday, the project released information on Utah women and homelessness. In their research, the team found the following:

  • Females made up 39.0% of the individuals who accessed homeless services in 2021. Of these, 23% were under the age of 18.
  • Of the women who accessed homeless services, 75.8% were white. However, compared to overall female by race percentages in Utah, Hispanic women; Black, African American, and African women; American Indian and Alaska Native women; and Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian women are disproportionately affected by homelessness.
  • The primary individual factors affecting women’s ability to find housing include the following: mental health conditions, chronic health conditions, physical disability, substance use, fleeing domestic violence and developmental disability. Of note, 26.7% of women accessing homeless services in 2021 had experienced domestic violence at some time.
  • In 2022, the Utah state legislature invested historic amounts of funding into addressing homelessness in Utah, in part because of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Nationally, 18 of every 10,000 people in the US have experienced homelessness, compared to 9.8 out of every 10,000 people in Utah.

Over 5,000 women who accessed homeless services in 2021 participated in street outreach, emergency shelters, or transitional housing projects, and 3,800 women were in households with adults and children.

Courtesy photo

Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

The rise is corroborated by a state report finding that, during the fiscal year 2021, 7,712 individuals experienced homelessness for the first time in Utah — an increase of almost 1,000 from the previous fiscal year.

According to the 2022 Community Assessment done by the United Way of Utah County, the homeless population in Utah County has increased over the last three years, going from 148 in 2020 to 206 in 2022. In 2022, 91 were sheltered individuals and 115 were unsheltered.

The 206 homeless individuals in Utah County included in the annual Point-it Time Count are in 152 households; 14 are households with adults and children, five are households with only children and 133 are households without children

The demographic group making up the highest percentage of individuals in Utah County in 2022 is chronically homeless persons (31.6%), followed by adults with mental illness (29.1%) and survivors of domestic violence (26.2%).

Madsen’s team found the same as United Way’s Community Assessment. Utah girls and women who accessed homeless services, and the primary individual factors affecting their ability to find housing, include the following: mental health conditions, chronic health conditions, physical disability, substance use, fleeing domestic violence and developmental disability.

According to 2021 data, the number of women accessing homeless services who have experienced domestic violence at some point in the past was 2,502, or 26.7% of all females.

“Although Utah’s rate of homelessness is less than the national rate, thousands of individuals and families experience sheltered and unsheltered homelessness each year,” reads the UWLP report. “We must continue efforts to provide resources for those currently experiencing homelessness and develop strategies that ensure homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. As we do so, we will not only strengthen the impact of more Utah girls and women, but also their families.”

To become involved in solutions and learn more about providers in your community, people can visit http://endutahhomelessness.org to connect with the Local Homeless Council in their area. More information about the study can be found at http://utwomen.org.

“We encourage Utahns to become more aware of resources for individuals experiencing homelessness, support legislative and community efforts to reduce homelessness, and increase their participation in volunteer efforts,” Madsen said.

Study authors include Madsen, Candice B. Pierucci (Research Associate, Utah Women & Leadership Project) and Dr. Emily S. Darowski (Associate Director, Utah Women & Leadership Project).

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