LOGAN – A government survey last week of Cache Valley’s homeless population found it is much larger than in any previous year.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates the annual Point-In-Time survey in communities across the country. A record number of volunteers canvassed Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties three days last week and located 43 homeless heads of households and 16 minor children.
Dr. Jess Lucero, a Utah State University social work professor, is the university representative on the Local Homeless Coordinating Committee (LHCC). She said individuals were found in or near Cache Valley communities, staying in places she described as not fit for human habitation.
”We’re finding shelter in their cars in parking lots, at convenience stores, at work parking lots, at gym parking lots, at park and rides, transit centers,” she explained. “We also found folks at 24-hour spots, at storage units, sheds. Any place that is technically not fit for human habitation and often times that is defined as not having running water or heat.”
Dr. Lucero said BRAG (Bear River Association of Governments) administers the Rapid Re-Housing Program, helping to get families into housing, and CAPSA (Community Abuse Prevention Services) houses people who have experienced domestic violence.
“Homelessness is among us, in our community,” Dr. Lucero added. “Folks who are homeless are our neighbors, they are our acquaintances. We’re missing not just a homeless shelter, an emergency kind of response. But we’re missing on this other side, the critical component of a service system which is permanent support of housing.”
Dr. Lucero said half of surveyed households had been homeless for three months or less and just less than half were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
“The Bear River LHCC is committed to making homelessness rare, brief, and non-reoccurring in the Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties,” said LHCC Co-Chair Stefanie Jones.