Salt Lake City has cut its chronic homelessness rate dramatically
during the last 10 years by giving homeless people nice, permanent places to live with lots of counseling on-site. Its experience offers valuable lessons.
This city has all but ended chronic homelessness, and San Francisco could learn a lot from how that happened.
What Salt Lake City did was simple: It created attractive housing that street people actually longed to live in, provided the new residents with plenty of on-site counseling to help them with problems such as drug abuse and unemployment, and put one person in charge who could get government and nonprofit agencies to work together.
The result is that in the decade since Salt Lake and San Francisco launched campaigns to end chronic homelessness, Salt Lake's hard-core street population shrank so drastically it is expected to be statistically gone by next year - but San Francisco still struggles mightily. And Salt Lake did this by spending $20 million a year in a million-resident metropolitan area. San Francisco spends $165 million.
San Francisco has challenges Salt Lake City doesn't - real estate prices and the cost of living are more than twice as high in the Bay Area, and far more homeless people move to San Francisco than head to Salt Lake. And that $20 million in Salt Lake is bolstered by more than $20 million in additional donations from the Mormon Church and other nonprofit groups.
When Salt Lake and San Francisco began their 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness in 2005 and 2004, respectively, each had about 3,000 people who lived full time on their streets. Today, San Francisco has about 2,000 - and Salt Lake has about 400