Mayor offers students a lesson in caring for those experiencing homelessness

As part of April’s recognition of Fair Housing Month, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski met with a group of Sun Valley, Idaho students to talk about the city’s efforts to address the struggles of those who are experiencing homelessness.

Mayor Biskuski’s conversation with the 36 students from the Sun Valley Community School focused on the resource centers opening this year that rethink the way government responds to those in need.

“We decided that we wanted to be able to better help people get back on their feet and back to independence,” she told the students who were in Salt Lake City on a service trip focused on better understanding the issue of homelessness and the type of services the City can provide.

In addition to housing, the centers — one each for women, men, couples and mothers with addiction issues who are trying to raise their kids — are designed to assess needs and help individuals and families access health care, job training or other services, the Mayor said.  The centers also provide a coordinated services system so that each person who enters the system will have a continuum of support.

“What we are doing her is unique,” she said, noting that other cities are now looking to learn from the plan.

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The resource enters, she said, have been created through joint efforts and funding from both private and nonprofit organizations, along with state government and Salt Lake County. The first two resource centers will open in July. (https://homelessutah.org/resource-centers/)

Mayor Biskupski also told the students about other programs the City has adopted to help homeless individuals with job skills — culinary arts and master gardner’s programs — and a push to expand access to affordable housing and a system of supportive housing units that offer more sustained services for those with mental health issues.

“People who are experiencing homelessness are not to be feared but to be understood,” Mayor Biskupski said. “We need compassion and we also need to meet them where they are and help them navigate the road back to self-sufficiency.”

The Mayor thanked the students for taking the time to learn about the issue and reminded them that each of us could face unexpected challenges in life that might leave us without a roof over our heads.  “I have many people who have found themselves homeless in a very short window of time and to their great surprise,” Mayor Biskupski said. “That can have a devastating effect on you as a human being. That’s why we are working to lift people up so that they can regroup and move on.”

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