Over 10 years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was looking to build a Deseret Industries store in the middle of Draper, Utah’s shopping district. In response, <a href=”http://www.deseretnews.com/article/635190235/Draper-says-no-to-a-downtown-DI.html” target=”_blank”>the Draper city council</a>, urged by residents, passed a zoning ordinance to keep Deseret Industries out of the area. The council said it didn’t mind if the LDS Church built its thrift store and mentoring program outside of the main flow of its commercial district, just not where other people shop. Of course, that decision made Draper look silly and snobby. More so, it made Draper look hypocritical – Draper’s population is overwhelmingly LDS.
Almost as if the residents of Draper were determined to look as foolish once again, they now have rejected the possibility of hosting a homeless shelter for women and children. Just to be clear, LDS people in Draper are turning away even the possibility of a homeless shelter for women and children. Allow me to double down on this point: Within view of three LDS temples, the LDS population of Draper has turned away even the idea of providing a home for impoverished women and children.
I can’t remember commenting publicly about homelessness in Utah but, before I do now, let me address the embarrassment called Draper, Utah. For 16 years Sally and I lived in neighboring Sandy. To us, Draper was viewed as a materialistic, hedonistic home to pretend Latter-day Saints. The stories of serial marital infidelity and divorce in Draper’s LDS wards are well known. And a new temple in the city only added fuel to its self-righteous phonies.
As anywhere, I’m sure there are plenty of decent human beings living in Draper, Utah. Unfortunately, few of them showed up at <a href=”http://www.sltrib.com/news/5116759-155/draper-pulls-shelter-sites-after-hundreds” target=”_blank”>a town hall meeting</a> to discuss a new homeless shelter. The incivility was at a crescendo. Draper Mayor Walker and Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams could hardly get two words out before they were shouted down. It was a disgusting display of un-Christian, un-thinking, materialistic selfishness. For those hypocritical LDS snobs in attendance, a new temple is okay in their city but not a building created to express what is taught in the new temple. In that case the new temple, if attended by these people, becomes a whited sepulcher. It’s like a scene straight out of the Book of Mormon when self-righteous, pharisaical, wealthy church adherents marched up to the Rameumpton to cite their scripted prayers while denying the poor any opportunity to participate. Well, the poor then and the homeless women and children now should be grateful not to take part in such communities.
Draper representative and Speaker of the House Greg Hughes has called homelessness in Utah a “crisis.” While homelessness is an important problem that needs addressing, it is hardly a crisis here. In fact, both in real numbers and percentages, homelessness has been on a steady decline in Utah for years. But the alarm begs the question for Draper, doesn’t it? If the Speaker of the House, who lives in Draper, says homelessness is a crisis that needs everyone’s attention, you might think his own backyard would be a welcoming environment.
Here’s what I think about addressing the homeless issue in Utah. The site selection committee is correct to try to find numerous homes for these shelters. Criminal elements that follow impoverished people like wolves prey on weaklings should not have their prey served to them on a platter. Policy makers are correct to decentralize community risk and mitigate marketplaces of corruption. This means other locations are essential to effectively address the issue. Spreading risk throughout communities – diluting the downside with healthier neighborhoods – is a better way to approach this problem. Hell, given the outrage in Draper over homeless women and children, I can only imagine the beating honest-to-goodness criminals would receive there!
While I now live in Herriman, across the valley from Draper, and while I do not serve in an elected position here, we have plenty of room for a homeless shelter. These shelters serve as homes for impoverished men, women and children. They are not homes for criminals. The riff-raff gathers around them to do business and then leaves to come back another day. I dare the riff-raff to try it in Herriman or in Cache County.
You know, on second thought, maybe the residents of Draper are right. They don’t deserve a homeless shelter. Their uncivil display of brute selfishness proves they aren’t good enough to offset any potential criminal parasites besieging the poor and needy. They’re already criminal enough in their hearts. Send the women and children my way. My neighbors – real Latter-day Saints and our friends – know how to take care of people in need. I’d much prefer to live with the homeless than the heartless.