More than 30 people are off the street and on their way to more permanent housing, thanks to the new housing program at the Food & Care Coalition in Provo. The beds opened almost three months ago, and about 35 of them have been full since opening day — there are a total of 38 beds but three are reserved for house parents.
“I think from my perspective it’s been better than expected,” said Brent Crane, executive director of the Food & Care Coalition. It hasn’t been without challenges, though, given that the agency went from being open 12 hours each day to operating around the clock.
The housing isn’t meant to be emergency housing — it’s a program to get chronically homeless people back in stable housing in the community. Crane said in most cases people who are homeless have other problems, like mental illness, and this program aims to address those issues. In addition to case management, people living at the shelter have access to therapy, health care and other services to help them get on their feet.
According to the state’s 2013 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness, “about 73 percent of all homeless persons experience mental illness, domestic violence or other barriers to stable housing.”
“This facility was built to take advantage of collaborative partnerships and opportunities,” he said.
There are some couples in the new Utah County program — it wasn’t designed for families with children — but most are single people, who represent the majority of homeless people in the area, Crane said.
In the 2013 point in time headcount of homeless people in Utah, there were a total of 253 homeless people in the Mountainland area, which includes Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties. Of those, 128 were unsheltered — that includes 27 people in families with adults and minors, and 101 in households with no children; there were no people in households of only children who were unsheltered. That also means that there were 125 homeless people who were sheltered — 67 of whom were part of families of adults and minors, seven households with only children and 51 households with no children.
Crane said people from the Salt Lake area have come south for services because they feel safer here, but Utah County residents are given priority over others.
The agency has had to remove a couple of people who weren’t ready for the experience or who broke rules, but the vast majority of people who’ve enrolled in the transitional housing program have, so far, been successful — some are now employed and building up savings, he said. Because the program is just getting started, there isn’t any data as to what the average stay will be, but in programs like it around the country the average stay is four to six months.
“Most people are waiting for housing or moving up the housing ladder, which was kind of the intent,” Crane said. “The vast majority are going to exit the program to another rung of the ladder.”
Though there are similar programs in other states, Crane said there aren’t many, and there isn’t another one like it in Utah.
“The public needs to be aware that we did this; this is something we can be proud of,” Crane said of the housing program opening. But the program needs ongoing support to keep going.
Last week, the Food & Care Coalition’s annual Bowls for Humanity fundraiser brought in $14,000 and there are other upcoming fundraising events. But the agency needs more than the money from fundraisers to continue its mission. It’s constantly applying for grants and appealing to people and foundations with the resources to give.
Crane said the agency took a calculated risk in opening the housing units, and needs the community to participate in helping homeless people get on their feet. To donate, participate in upcoming fundraisers or see a list of items the agency needs, go to foodandcare.org.