Although Utah can claim that it has led the nation in housing its chronically homeless residents—it counts now just 200—homeless numbers in the state continue to rise, with an additional 14,000 registering at shelters in 2015. Experts say increased housing prices are forcing people onto the streets, and national leaders lack the political will to help them.
According to Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “congressional inaction and also developers not addressing the crisis have led to seemingly permanent inertia.”
“Congress regularly ranks housing as one of the things that they’re least interested in pursuing or working on,” Roman told National Public Radio. “It’s hard to see, with 560,000 homeless people on any given night, how bad things have to get before we decide to do something about it.”
She continued, “When I started working on housing and urban issues in the 1970s, we really did not have widespread homelessness at all and that’s because there was an adequate supply of affordable housing.”
While many cities and states use U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds to get homeless people quickly housed, Roman says the emphasis should be on permanent long-term housing.
“A better solution would be to have more longer-term rental subsidies,” she said. “But we don’t have them. So rapid rehousing is better than leaving people in shelter.”