A Tale of Two Cities: The State of Utah Welfare


Fruits of the Mormon way of life. Draper Temple (Photo credited to “LDS church” by this source)

Something remarkable happened in Draper last night–yes, that Draper, the well-heeled Salt Lake City suburb where you can buy a $10 million faux chateau overlooking the Draper temple:

After a pummeling from nearly 1,000 residents, Draper Mayor Troy Walker pulled two of his city’s proposed homeless-shelter locations off the table. (Source)

I know what you’re thinking: “Local politics? Remarkable? Please, BCC, you’re better than this.” (“Ha!” replies the chorus from the peanut gallery.) But follow me like a hungry toddler—there’s more:

Residents packed an open house in the auditorium of Draper Park Middle School on Wednesday night to protest Walker’s offer of sites at the soon-to-be-relocated Utah State Prison and at 15001 Minuteman Drive.

The group, which poured out the door of the school’s 700-person-capacity auditorium, booed as Lawrence Horman called for compassion for homeless residents.

Horman told the group he was homeless. He lives in an orange shipping trailer with electricity from a nearby power pole on a commercial lot, he told The Tribune. The audience booed him as he called for patience.

Contrast that episode with this glowing report about “How Utah Keeps the American Dream Alive“:

It matters to Americans that someone born poor can retire rich. That possibility increasingly seems slimmer and slimmer in most of the nation, but in Utah, it’s still achievable.

How, you ask? It seems that the Mormon brand of “compassionate conservatism”—which offers a “combination of financial help and the occasional verbal kick in the pants”—”starts to offer some clue as to why Utah seems to be so good at generating mobility — and why that might be hard to replicate without the Latter-Day Saints.”  See, government is relatively small but is unusually effective due to a cheerful and effective bureaucracy aided by “an immense parallel structure that can be counted on to bolster anything the government does on poverty. Its front door is Welfare Square.”

One of the notable accomplishments of Utah’s welfare state is the reduction of chronic homelessness by an astounding 91 percent. That effort was led by a man who was once in charge of the Church’s humanitarian services, Lloyd Pendleton. Before launching a “Housing First”[fn1] pilot project in Salt Lake City, he had views about government assistance that are no doubt shared by many of the Mormons living in the American West:

He says as a conservative, he didn’t think the government should simply give people a place to live.

“Because I was raised as a cowboy in the west desert,” Pendleton says, “and I have said over the years, ‘You lazy bums, get a job, pull yourself up by the bootstraps.'”

First by necessity, then as a matter of principle (the Welfare Square incarnation of Church relief efforts was developed as a response to concerns by the First Presidency about the corrosive effects of the New Deal; see here and here), the Church has long preached the gospel of self-reliance:

We have succeeded fairly well in establishing in the minds of Latter-day Saints that they should take care of their own material needs and then contribute to the welfare of those who cannot provide the necessities of life. If a member is unable to sustain himself, then he is to call upon his own family, and then upon the Church, in that order, and not upon the government at all. Boyd K. Packer, August 1975 (Source)

The individual is all-important in the Lord’s plan. Any system which does not require initiative, self-reliance, and the necessity of work for what we receive, if able, will not preserve its integrity. The design of the welfare plan of the Church is to abolish the dole. The dole is a blight in any welfare system and should be feared as cancer in the human body. J. Richard Clarke, April 1982 (Source)

We cannot afford to become wards of the government, even if we have a legal right to do so. It requires too great a sacrifice of self-respect and in political, temporal, and spiritual independence.

Governments are not the only guilty parties. We fear many parents in the Church are making “gullible gulls” out of their children with their permissiveness and their doling out of family resources. Marion G. Romney, October 1982 (Source)

“We strive to promote self-reliance, to enthrone work, and to eliminate the curse of idleness and the evils of a dole,” [Keith B. McMullin, managing director of Welfare Services for the Church,] said [before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Assistance]. Ensign, June 1987 (Source)

Where possible, members should work in return for assistance received. We need to avoid the evils of the dole and the feeling of having some kind of entitlement. David H. Burton, 2009 (Source)

Well, you get the idea. A state filled with residents and policy-makers steeped in these teachings might not seem the most obvious fit for a program that gives the homeless apartments without subjecting them first to a battery of preconditions, but after attending a conference on homelessness in Chicago, Pendleton changed his mind and became a pioneer, making Utah the first state to implement the Housing First model statewide. While there are a number of factors behind the program’s success, one was religion: “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has significant influence in Utah, was a big supporter of Housing First.”

So what to make of the incident in Draper in light of Salt Lake City’s achievements with its homeless population through a program endorsed by the Church? No doubt byzantine local politics are involved; at least the comments on the Trib article linked above are littered with allegations of political corruption and self interest.

But if there were ever a walking advertisement for the Mormon way of doing things, wouldn’t Draper be it? The city where self-reliant folks are busy prospering as a result of their industry, realizing the American Dream, and living in a peaceful suburb where multi-million dollar homes surround a temple in as clear a display of the fruits of the prosperity gospel as you are likely to encounter in America.

So why are people dressed in polos, chinos and navy blue blazers booing a homeless guy who came to speak in support of expanding a program whose success has attracted attention from across the country? It’s not like the proposed locations were in anyone’s backyard. See this video for a glimpse of the two plots next to I-15, one the site of a former prison, the other a weed lot.

But I realize that putting principles into practice is never easy, and I doubt that Draper’s residents are uniquely stiff-necked when it comes to helping the homeless. So rather than dwell on them, what about us? How would you respond to such a proposal in your town? What would be a bridge too far when it comes to extending charity to those who are complicit in their misfortune?

Personally, I feel fortunate to live in a European social democracy with a robust welfare state that, believe it or not, is not just a function of high taxes but volunteerism and NGOs as well. [EDIT: Before everyone gets tripped up over this point—Europe is not a unitary state with a homogeneous population free from inequality. No doubt when you got lost that one time in Rome you saw some things that raised your manicured eyebrows. I’m still grateful for the fundamental and—by mainstream political parties, anyway—unquestioned commitment to providing a social welfare net to all in the country where I reside as it clearly makes a difference in the lives of many people.] How about you?

Fn1: Just like it says on the tin; as opposed to, say, a “housing readiness” model where “an individual or household must address other issues that may have led to the episode of homelessness prior to entering housing” (Source).


  1. I’ve seen more homeless and ghettoization in Europe than in Utah or Chicago.

  2. Great. So what is Draper worried about?

  3. America is the land of the homeless compared to all other peer developed free market democracies. Only in America can you become homeless because a car accident or critical illness causes you to lose everything including your home. That’s been my observation after nearly a decade of living in various European countries.

    As for the Draper episode, it seems to me Nephi is speaking to them when he quotes Isaiah’s phrase to admonish against “grinding the faces of the poor.”

  4. I rent in Draper, and it is a great place to live – not that I could ever afford to buy a house here. It is an interesting mix of old farm houses and mc-mansions – our church building has modest, older houses on one side and truly stunning mc-mansions on the other. I think the mc-mansions are winning and it doesn’t surprise me that that kind of property value fails to engender compassion.

    I remember going door to door in Columbus Ohio as part of a bi-centennial food drive. We were in a beautiful neighborhood with enormous houses – and each and every home told us we were unwelcome. Even those that gave did so only on our word that we would never come back again. I would guess those families give a lot of money to different charitable causes every year, but it is a different kind of giving when someone is knocking on your door.

    In any case, the town hall sounds unbelievably shameful.

  5. This quote from KSL says a lot about what is cared about: “If you had the idea Thursday, you should have let it pass,” Kent Hasting told his mayor, who said he initially proposed the idea to McAdams last week. “The optics of this are horrible.”

  6. Don’t forget how just a month or so ago the city of Salt Lake backed out of building 4 shelters down to just 2. I’m still raging about that one. In case you didn’t catch the news, basically the people from the rich areas (Sugar House) said “NOT IN MY BACKYARD!” and put so much pressure on the city that the Mayor backed out.

    Having lived in Sugar House for a year, where my wife and I almost decided to leave the church because our ward was so horrible, I shouldn’t be surprised at this backlash and lack of charity. Our ward welfare lady LITERALLY said in her sacrament meeting talk: “Jesus never gave anything to anyone.” and talked for 15 minutes about not taking “handouts.”

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    This old post of mine has all of a sudden taken on an immediate relevancy, as we are being judged by the words of the Book of Mormon:


  8. N. W. Clerk says:

    Draper’s per capita income is $22,747. That puts it between #48 Arkansas and #49 West Virginia on the state-by-state list.

  9. That sounds grim. Draper City suggests that things aren’t so bad:

    Draper City’s Mean Household Income is $120,088.
    Median Household Income is $94,852
    Median Home Price: $434,450
    Median Rental Rate: $1,156

  10. This is one of those times when the old saying that Mormons are like manure (useful when spread out, stinky when all together) seems particularly true. I grew up in Utah and acquired the notion that Mormons are not actually better Christians than anyone else. After all, it was my friend’s Mormon dad who went to jail for embezzling, etc. etc. etc. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a majority Baptist community and came away with the world view that Mormons were far more committed than other Christians.

    I think Mormonism and even Christianity in general are better as leavening rather than the entire loaf. Otherwise, you get situations like this one where it becomes plain that when we are the majority, we are no different from anyone else, and Christ calls us to be different.

    Also, I find that picture of the temple surrounded by mansions pretty unsettling.

  11. NW Clerk: You can’t use income per capita to compare a city with so many children below working age to states with much lower birthrates. You have to use household or family income instead for a better comparison. The numbers peterllc gives are thus a better judge of Draper’s relative prosperity.

  12. D Christian Harrison says:

    Jason Larsen (@Jarsen): for the record, the location you’re commenting on (Simpson Avenue) doesn’t hew to the Sugar House stereotype. They were just well-organized and loud, and they got some unexpected support from two of the seven city council members. It really was a marvel to behold.

    Also, the choice by the City to go from 4 to 2 was actually a choice to simply go back to the original plan. I’ve been a part of this process for 10 years… and was a commissioner on the Salt Lake City Homeless Services Site Commission and was invited to be part of the Salt Lake County Homeless Services Commission. We’re doing good things here: the outdated and outmode​d campus model was an abject failure and a festering humanitarian crisis. The City and County collaborated​ to craft a home-grown approach to providing services and shelter to those who experience homelessness. We decided to replace the campus model with a distributed site model and to deeply retool the intake process so that diversion was possible (in the current model, there was one front door to such services, and it was the poorly designed and poorly managed Road Home campus on Rio Grande… in the new model, any public services outlet will be a “front door” to services). Improved diversion—that gets people to services in their communities without having to decamp to the homeless campus—means that fewer emergency shelter beds were needed. Another part of the formula was a commitment to deliver services as close to the “point of entry” as possible. This included a new family shelter in Midvale, a new shelter in Murray, and 500 emergency shelter beds (and accompanying services) in Salt Lake City. Initially, these beds were divided into two resource centers—which I opposed, as 250 beds is a large number to manage—out of my opposition (and others, of course), came the plan for four, smaller shelters. When the opposition to Simpson Avenue threatened the entire program, the Mayor worked with the County and State, and the current three-HRC model was the result. As part of its commitment to the updated model, the County promised one HRC outside of Salt Lake City. The Draper fiasco was part of the vetting process for that one center.

    Anyway, that’s all to say that your framing of the facts missed several salient points.

  13. D Christian Harrison says:

    NW Clerk: I wonder if that per capita income doesn’t include Draper’s rather large population of children.

  14. Anonforthis says:

    Housing First is not intuitive and NIMBY is both intuitive and powerful. However sensible the plan, it need(ed) to be sold. I’d like to think that Christians or Mormons or Utahns (pick your label/grouping) would just “get it” but that’s not how people work.
    How do I know? Because I’m a convert to Housing First so I know the before and after. And an extreme practitioner of NIMBY, having moved so far out that a new neighbor a mile down the road and out of sight is too close.
    I notice an extra twist in the Draper story, where extension of public transportation is viewed as a negative. What’s that about?

  15. D Christian Harrison says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Peter: fundemental to a modern democracy is access to and a guarantee of universal health care. It’s simply part of the infrastructure that makes modern nations sustainable—like roads, sewers, and electrical grids.

  16. Some Dude's Fry Sauce says:

    peterllc, I’m not an expert on homelessness in Utah, but I think you’re conflating some different issues. Housing First gets folks into permanent or semi-permanent living situations. That’s different from the shelters that were at issue in Draper. The backstory for why people are worried about new overnight shelters is the situation around the Rio Grande station in downtown SLC, which has become a “no-go zone” for pedestrians trying to get from the light rail station on the west to the shopping district on the east. The violence in that area, which is where the main shelters for the valley are currently located, has disturbed a lot of residents of the city who otherwise would be inclined to be compassionate. I’ve had family members threatened by vagrants in the area. I personally know very liberal folks who have supported programs for the homelessness who now want nothing more than to have the current shelters shuttered. Dead bodies, human excrement, and used heroin needles on the doorsteps of local businesses are not something any community is going to want. Five years ago, that part of the city was experiencing a promising revitalization, and now I wouldn’t even drive down some of those streets. So while expanding homeless resources in the valley may actually be the solution to the current problem downtown, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for residents who live near proposed sites to be concerned, since there is a possibility of the Rio Grande situation repeating elsewhere.

  17. In 1999, the Church sent me to Montreal to do a story about Pierre Anthian, a musically inclined dental technician, who started a choir among the homeless of Montreal in an effort to get some of them off the street. I spent a weekend with Pierre and his homeless choir. It was an eye-opener. Not to point fingers (well maybe), but what I’m seeing in Utah (Draper and other cities) gives me the exact opposite feeling from what I felt around Pierre, who is undoubtedly one of the most Christlike people I’ve ever met. If you want to read the story that resulted from my visit to Montreal, here’s the link: https://www.lds.org/liahona/2000/12/the-least-of-these?lang=eng.

  18. Booing a homeless person for advocating for his community’s needs is completely despicable. It is clear that Draper has no part of Zion, and all is not well there.

  19. Does anyone know what % of the population of Draper is LDS?

  20. I notice an extra twist in the Draper story, where extension of public transportation is viewed as a negative. What’s that about?

    There may (I don’t know) be an element of “public transit is for poor people — we good people all drive our own SUVs like God intended,” but most likely it is skepticism of Utah Transit Authority itself, since one of the actors in last night’s drama is a UTA official, unrelated to his involvement with the homeless shelter. Even among those of us who depend on public transit, there is an overwhelming impression that UTA isn’t entirely free of corruption, with their outrageously high salaries and bonuses compared to transit officials in other cities of comparable size, their high-priced and unnecessary golf junkets to meet with other transit officials around the world, and the overall unresponsiveness of UTA to the needs of its actual riders outside of — ironically for this discussion — the TRAX riders from the south end of the valley who commute to downtown Salt Lake City. IOW, the negative views connected to public transportation expressed at last night’s meeting quite possibly have nothing to do with the proposed homeless shelter at all.

  21. First – thanks for posting images of my cousin’s mini Versailles. The minute you referenced it I knew the house. It helps to know that the family isn’t your standard LDS Utah family. Good people, but actually a mixed faith marriage and very liberal. They work in the music industry in LA – with big name people like Rhianna.

    Second – I work with homeless in my community. Finding a safe balance as SomeDudesFrySauce explained is a painful drawback. Wisdom needs to be compassions twin. 14 years ago a local church started a winter overnight shelter. The church and surrounding community were supportive of it. And for the most part it is a success. However, the homes and businesses around it are not so happy anymore. The guests don’t really leave the area. They camp out in business door ways, visit Starbucks and yell at clerks or panhandle from customers, they litter. And they attract more homeless friends. This changes the dynamic of the former suburban neighborhood. Now the neighborhood isn’t happy. To be honest, if I had spent mega millions on a local and home, I would be disinclined to have my community effected.

    I am an individual torn on the matter. I work and live in both sides of it. I would hate to be a mayor or city council member as the decision process goes forward. Draper is the perfect model of the struggle many communities have between homelessness and non-homelessness.

  22. Some Dude’s Fry Sauce,

    Thanks for the clarification and background.

  23. Thank you too, cat. These issues certainly are tricky and can frustrate the best of us.

  24. peterllc – I am really glad you posted this. It is such a complicated and tough issue. Conversations and posts like this really are necessary.

  25. A couple recently spoke in our ward at the conclusion of his inner city mission, where he worked closely with the Housing First organization. Their talks dismantled the idea that we force others to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” before help is offered. I sensed that it ruffled a few feathers, but I suppose that’s why we go to church – to be ruffled.

    Like with many things, the poor are those we claim to love–from a distance. We write checks, donate cans, and maybe do a clothing drive. Closing the proximity gap is a frightening prospect for so many. The single biggest factor for people changing their minds about people is knowing them intimately. How many poor people do you know well? How well do you understand the factors that contribute to poverty? I feel it’s the same when we talk about LGTBQ individuals. (“We love gays, we just don’t think they belong *here*.”)

    Alma said: “And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities”. So it is with us. We must know others “according to the flesh” in order to know how to help them. But if we aren’t willing to let them close to us, we will never know.

  26. Indeed, Cathy, succoring the poor is for many of us an abstract exercise, myself included, and those times were it wasn’t were not free of disappointment.

  27. jaxjensen says:

    ” It is clear that Draper has no part of Zion, and all is not well there.”

    Isn’t that clearly true of all of Utah? US? World? I think if there were an ACTUAL Zion among us (anywhere on the planet) that it would be “clear” to all of us how far we are from it. Zion is a nice codeword we use among ourselves, but it’s painfully obvious that as a people we have no interest in actually working towards making it happen. That much is “clear”.

  28. While I realize the attitudes caused by past pronouncements may still exist, the OP’s description of local church interaction with “the dole” is anachronistic. Bishops are now instructed to direct people to government welfare programs in addition to church programs. In our ward we tend to fill in emergency gaps where government programs can’t react fast enough or are insufficient. Also, we tend to help the same people over and over and over again, which suggests we may not be doing such a good job at avoiding. Creating dependence.

  29. “I think if there were an ACTUAL Zion among us (anywhere on the planet) that it would be ‘clear’ to all of us how far we are from it.”

    My experience from visiting and living in countries that are much closer to Zion than Utah or the U.S. is tells me that if an actual Zion existed, most of the rest of us would either deny its existence or would make up things about it to criticize.

    If you don’t believe me, try giving a talk in sacrament meeting in a Mormon Corridor ward and mention how other countries have succeeded in essentially eliminating poverty, and about how far the U.S. still has to go. See how well that goes over with the average member.

    My experience of living in a ward that included neighborhoods with extreme poverty and actual ghetto is that some people will always be dependent on others, often through no fault of their own. The elderly woman who has significant hearing loss, and the middle-aged man with severe learning disabilities, will never be entirely self-sufficient. They still deserve our help. They still deserve the opportunity to have food, shelter, healthcare, and a safe neighborhood to live in.

  30. Anonforthis 8:41: the desire to physically remove one’s self and household from places that “undesirables” can access easily is a very, very old one. The Duke of Wellington opposed the construction of railways in the United Kingdom because they “made the lower orders too footloose.” The arrival of the cable car and then the electric streetcar in the last quarter of the 19th century saw wealthy people, who owned horses and carriages and therefore didn’t need to be near the streetcar lines, to move their households away from major thoroughfares. Many of the great mansion rows of the turn of the 20th century are on streets that never got streetcar service, and that’s not an accident.

    Bill Fischel, the eminent urban economist, has argued that the rise of zoning laws explicitly aimed at protecting neighborhoods of single-family detached houses from “invasion”–which is to say, the laws governing virtually all of the land in urban and suburban areas in the United States, with the notable exception of (most of) Houston–can be traced to the development of the motor bus in the 1910s. Suddenly, mass transportation no longer required expensive street trackage and overhead wires. The wealthy and the merely affluent now needed to use laws, not merely distance, to protect themselves from the plebes. One of the arguments in the 1926 Euclid v. Ambler decision that effectively legalized zoning was that apartment buildings led to shortages of street parking in previously single-family neighborhoods in which they were built. (Yes, this was considered sufficiently important for the Supreme Court to mention it.)

    Cobb County, in the northern Atlanta suburbs, has for decades refused to join the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority explicitly because it would allow poor blacks from inner-city Atlanta to come into their county, in which case Cobb residents and politicians believed they inevitably would commit crime. The northern part of Fulton County, which became the city of Sandy Springs in the early ’00s (and where the Church decided to put the Atlanta Temple), couldn’t keep MARTA buses out, but they protested so vigorously against them that for decades MARTA ran “secret” routes with no marked stops (let alone shelters or benches) in them. (We will set aside that most of the nannies and housekeepers employed by the good white people of Sandy Springs used those buses.)

  31. Tim 11:40: the zoning laws I mention above mean that these people tend to be overly concentrated in certain areas, which ends up burdening the non-poor who live in them. The city where I live drew its zoning to put almost all of its multifamily housing in its northern and western portions, leaving its southern and northeastern portions devoid of it; I live in the northeast, but on the “edge,” meaning the neighborhood school to which my daughter is assigned is 98% ESL and gives free lunch and breakfast to all students because more than 95% of them qualify for it. When my wife went there to register our daughter for kindergarten, the school administrators took a look at my wife–a well-dressed middle-aged white woman–and told her within 10 seconds of her arrival that the provisions of No Child Left Behind entitled her to register our daughter in another school, three schools away from this school’s catchment area, and receive transportation there. Meanwhile, the neighborhood schools whose catchment areas border ours have ESL populations below 10%. This is not an accident.

    Most Americans who consider themselves economically libertarian are interventionist to a Soviet degree when it comes to land, because it might lead them to have to live next to the poor. Not that their ostensibly “progressive” counterparts are much better, of course. Some of the most “liberal” places in the country are the northernmost third of Santa Monica and the adjacent portions of Brentwood and Pacific Palisades; good luck getting any housing built in them that might be affordable to a household with an income below $500k.

  32. Fascinating, APM.

  33. jaxjensen says:

    Tim I agree that there would be plenty of people criticizing Zion, mostly because most people I know criticize the idea of it now. They either a) don’t like the inherent “socialism” of everybody being equal; or b) don’t like the idea of a community run by a religious group or religious principles; or c) aren’t willing to let go us trust in the State for trust in God.

    I’ve tried giving those talks in the Mormon Corridor (or bring it up in Sunday School/EQ/etc) and it receives the response you mention. Everyone’s happy to sing in praise of Zion, but nobody is willing to lose that 401(k) or extra vehicle.

    But those countries you’ve lived in are just as far from Zion as UT/US is. They are better in some areas and further in others. Zion is not a every-man-for-himself society like some believe (Republicans/conservatives/right-wingers), but Zion is also not a government run program like others do (Democrats/liberals/left-wingers). Just because a nation does a good job of caring for its citizens does NOT mean it is Zion-like.

  34. Owen, I’m glad to hear it. Locally, however, I feel like a broken record, always harping about how there’s an app for that, so to speak, when it comes to discussing welfare.

  35. The self-perpetuating problems downtown at Rio Grande result in part from a big concentration of homeless–there is a large vulnerable population for drug dealers to sell to, and likely less police presence in a place that the prosperous avoid. Wouldn’t it be better for each community to take some responsibility and spread out the homeless into much smaller groups where they can get government as well as non-government help? Seems like that’s what the 4 location model was trying to do before all the “not in my back yard” pushback. When you talk to rehabs and sober living providers, they will tell you that the mid or south valley locations are more successful for their residents because they get them away from the ghetto. This is all pretty obvious, but with our human nature, doing it is another thing–“my cabin’s built, so no more cabins”, “let government take care of it,” “it’s not my problem,” “all is well in Zion.”

  36. D Christian Harrison: Thank you for your comments. I am familiar with the motivation for the new resource centers as I own and live in a home less than half a mile from the High Avenue site. And to be clear, I am VERY much behind the movement and I think it is a much more intelligent and sustainable model. Frankly, it is a little scary since we just bought our home less than a year ago, but I feel confident that distributing the population to more specialized resource centers is absolutely the right call, and if it falls upon my neighborhood to host one, so be it. It’s gotta be in someone’s backyard.

    All I know is that this situation has revealed some extremely nasty NIMBYism in an area where a large portion of the population regards themselves as christian and as a “light of the gospel”, and I have been absolutely disgusted by many of the things I’ve heard, first from Sugar House and now this behavior from Draper. My personal view of the Sugar House community’s charity after having lived in “downtown” Sugar House for a year and attended church there, and now this, is rather negative.

    While attending the “workshop”, which should have been just called an information session, I met a gentleman from Sugar House in the parking lot who told me he knew 4 good locations for the centers: east of the prison, north of the prison, west of the prison, and south of the prison. Obviously these experiences are not representative of everyone in sugar house, but when so many sour apples leave a bad taste in your mouth you can’t help it.

  37. Tim @11:40am — that was such an excellent and true comment. Thank you. I agree with your observations entirely.

    They still deserve the opportunity to have food, shelter, healthcare, and a safe neighborhood to live in. Amen.

    Unfortunately, in America, the land of the homeless, “shelter is a privilege of the sane and competent,” eh Peter LLC?

  38. Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to work intimately with individual homeless close up and the problems aren’t easily overcome. Addicts don’t get better with just a little help. Mentally ill paranoid people aren’t open to medication for their condition. People under stress and duress do not generally make the best decisions. Putting a lot of such people in close proximity with each other is not always a recipe for success either. One person I worked with referred to her tendency to become highly agitated and emotional as “diabetes”. When I’d successfully gotten her into a well-funded program and asked her how things were going, she said, “Well…about what you’d expect when all of us have diabetes.” She ended up in jail for trying to kill another woman in the program (who, by many accounts, had it coming). Caring for the homeless is not easy and I can see how the people of Draper would not welcome homeless shelters. BUT, these people cannot, at the moment, care for themselves, and they need a place to be. Some of them need help just to start over and will eventually be fine, but honestly, I don’t think most of them will ever be able to take care of themselves. Some mental illness is simply debilitating, and some people’s brains have simply been fried on drugs. They still need someplace to be. And I don’t think a giant warehouse out-of-sight, out-of-mind is the right solution. I’m a proponent of housing first.

    I’ve been guilty of grinding the face of the poor. It wasn’t a big incident, but of all the sins I’ve committed in my life, it is the one of which I’m the most ashamed. The visual of all these people booing the homeless man off the stage knots my gut.

  39. APM @11:44am — that is truly chilling history, isn’t it? Similar to the sinister origins of HOAs. The sins of the American suburban model are many, rooted in a toxic mix of racism, classism, and the various iterations of the “Western farmer” ideologies Peter LLC quoted in the original post.

  40. nothing assumed about your food allergy says:

    Look at that picture, what a tacky, character-free, culture-free, history-free wasteland.

  41. yes

  42. Clark Goble says:

    John f (1:39) While I think we can all decry the booing of a homeless person asking for compassion as about as unChristlike as they come, it’s probably also worth noting that people who are scared and angry perhaps aren’t thinking the most rationally. While not at the meeting it does sound like things were sprung on residents with no real warning or involvement from the community. That’s not a great way to start the process and pretty well guarantees something like this would happen.

    I think most people know something has to be done for the homeless, and by all accounts until the last year or so things were going pretty well. However of late we’ve had a lot of pretty scary violence, and business owners in the Pioneer Park area have been asked to put up with a lot without a lot of help. It makes sense that people fear that they’ll have that where they are.

    While it’s fine (and I agree) to criticize punishing the poor, the people who are scared typically are scared for their kids. Would you want to have your kids living beside the shelter there by Pioneer Park? Would you let your kids play in Pioneer Park?

    This is why some solution is necessary but by letting the situation get so out of hand in the Pioneer Park area the city and state created the very fear that makes it now hard to resolve. While I think it’s fair to blame people for selfishness (and booing the homeless) I think we’d also agree that people are more careful with children – especially given many high profile cases in the past like Elizabeth Smart. Finding a way to balance fears and needs is important. But part of the problem is that people aren’t trying to understand each other which makes a solution far less likely to be achieved. And both sides will simply attack the other for their extremism without seeing the problems or solutions.

  43. I saw no recommendations as how to become financially responsible. I had no choice but to go on the government dole as I caught garbage each time I asked the church for food and other help. My family has done all they can. Then the church harassed me until I had no choice but to get on the food stamp program.

  44. Mark Westover says:

    One may ask why, if the program is so successful at solving the problem of homelessness, we need to expand the program so dramatically in Utah. The answer seems to be that the rest of the country sends their problems to us. The better we get at taking care of homeless people the more we attract.
    I would prefer that we teach other states how to solve their own problems rather than continuing to have them export their homeless to our backyards.

  45. Clark Goble says:

    Any predictions for one of the brethren laying the hammer over the Draper event? I’d be shocked if we don’t get some Benjamin quotes.

    Mark, I think there’s some truth to that. As I understand (although I might be wrong) when all the national press started coming out on our homeless successes a year and a half or so ago the number of homeless started increasing significantly. It’s rather surprising given our harsher winters that people were coming here. I’m not sure that explains the surge in violence though.

  46. Mark, your concern highlights one of the challenges facing ad hoc solutions to pervasive problems–free riding by, among others, less generous/enlightened/etc. jurisdictions.

  47. Many problems are easily thought about separately, but are entangled with other problems. Homelessness is only one aspect of bigger problems. One related problem is poor law enforcement and a broken judicial system. Doing drugs and defecating on the front porch and the actions around downtown Salt Lake are illegal. That situation is a law enforcement issue. Where are the police? Where are the courts backing them up? Where are the laws that effectively enable this lawlessness to reign? The boundaries between homelessness, panhandling, shoplifting, mugging, assault and murder are blurred. Don’t kid yourself.

    Last week a bridge over one of the busiest interstates in the US collapsed due to a hot fire burning stored plastic material beneath it. And who started the fire? Who lives under bridges and why do they start fires? It is pretty obvious to those of us who pass under freeway bridges every day. They were homeless bums probably smoking crack cocaine and because it is so dry under large bridges, it is like a Utah desert during a drought.

    This catastrophy will compromise thousands of businesses as employees see their daily commute times jump from 2 hours to 4-6 hours a day for the many months. Some of these businesses will go broke and others will move away. The already over-burdened tax base will shrink. The homeless and criminal problems will worsen. The devil will rejoice.

    And just why are the good hard-working people of Atlanta driving so much in the first place?Walk around the south side of “A-town” or “C-town” or any of a number of big cities. You had better “dress for success” as they say (carry a loaded gun and be ready to use it). I don’t know the answer but it is obvious that what the government under both political parties has been doing pouring billions of dollars down this sewer doesn’t work.The last 8 years of President Obama did nothing if not make matters worse. Same goes for Presidents Bush, Clinton, etc.

    Some homeless people would benefit from some help. Many have mental illness and need to be in institutions. But too many of them need a bus ticket to nowhere. They refuse to follow even basic rules while in shelters; such as no drug use in the shelter, no raping or prostitution, no stealing, no assaulting or property destruction, proper use of toilets, etc. The street is the only place where they can follow the rules since there are so few except the law of the jungle.

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