Utah Has So Few Chronically Homeless People Now, It Knows Each One By Name

04/29/2015 09:16 am ET | Updated Apr 29, 2015
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Utah has inched further toward winning its war against homelessness.

As Deseret News reported, chronic homelessness in the Beehive State has dropped a dramatic 91 percent in the past decade, state officials announced on Tuesday.

Gordon Walker, director of the state's Housing and Community Development Division, said just 178 chronically homeless people remain in need of permanent housing in Utah -- down from 1,932 in 2005.

"We know them by name, who they are and what their needs are," he said, according to Deseret News.

The steep decline comes to no surprise to those paying attention in Salt Lake City -- a community that has tracked significant progress fighting the crisis. Last year, it became just the second American city to end chronic homelessness among its veterans.

“This is a decision that was made by the whole community, and we’ve been dedicated to it for many years,” Mayor Ralph Becker told MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry last January. “The resources, while never enough, have come forward from every part of the community.”

Utah's success can be linked to the "housing first" approach to tackling homelessness -- that is, prioritizing housing as an immediate need before connecting individuals with necessary services like addiction programs and mental health treatment.

The approach has been endorsed by the Obama administration and backed by research analyzing homelessness in major Canadian cities, as well as in Charlotte, North Carolina. In February, New Jersey's Camden County announced plans to enact a "housing first" tactic, giving apartments to those without stable housing in hopes of curbing homelessness while saving taxpayers money.

Although the approach has been deemed successful on smaller scales, Utah stands alone when it comes to successfully combating chronic homelessness at the state level, according to Walker.

"No other state is even close," he said, Deseret News reported. "We've had no additional resources than [any other state] has had to do this, but by focusing, having a plan and having great collaboration with our partners, we've been able to see successes."

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