Inside the newsroom: A smart way to give a dollar to the homeless

Nicole Boliaux, Deseret News

FILE – Homeless members of Salt Lake wait outside the Catholic Community Services (200 S. and 500 W.) next to the Road Home, called “The Block,” in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — Downtown Salt Lake City is a rich place to live, so much so that rental rates keep increasing and the influx of people isn’t stopping. This past week the Deseret News reported that the vacancy rate is at an all-time low, 2.6 percent. That’s down from 2016 when it was 2.9 percent.

In both cases that’s considered “full occupancy” in Salt Lake City, and that’s brought a building boom to get more units built and made available.

That will help those who want to come live and work downtown. But it won’t do much for a burgeoning homeless population. The homeless are not a homogeneous group. Some prefer the streets. Some go to shelters. Some turn to panhandling. Some are burdened by drugs. Some are old and some are young. Some are simply down on their luck.

Not all panhandlers are homeless. Not all homeless are panhandlers. Yet panhandling is a distraction from finding true solutions to homelessness because when social workers rightly say don’t give to panhandlers, sometimes the message we hear is “don’t give at all.”

So how do you help lift a homeless person? How do you help the individual or family who is without resources?

Well, money is part of the answer if it’s put to a real solution. Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller is showing us the way at, where she has agreed to match any donation up to $10 million. The state Legislature has committed $27 million toward building three homeless resource centers that go beyond simply beds for those in need. The legislative committment was the first step to get the buildings built. These centers will be a step toward lifting those who desire back into a more permanent housing and work situation.

Miller’s pledge is designed to do what public money cannot: provide more internal programs and people to help. As a successful businesswoman and a board member for Shelter the Homeless, she has spent years asking a simple question: What can I do? She takes responsibility and then tries to…

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