How We Respond to the Homelessness Crisis in Salt Lake City Will Define Us

Sep 8, 2020Op-ed, Housing, Human Dignity

Board member Derek Miller recently wrote an op-ed for the Deseret News discussing the dire situation of hundreds of people who have become homeless in Salt Lake City. He compares their situation to the “bedlam” that existed in London hospitals dating back to the 1200s.

Miller makes two important points, among others. First, it is inhumane for people to be living in these conditions. He wrote:

If you’ve visited downtown lately, you will see how deterioration and neglect has led to bedlam on the streets of Salt Lake City. If you haven’t been in the central business district recently, you will be shocked and saddened by the scenes that await you. Inhumane conditions exist for hundreds on the streets of Salt Lake City. Difficult to imagine. Difficult to believe. Sad but true. And shameful.

No one should have to live in inhumane conditions, no matter how they came to be in those conditions. We should consider how we would feel if we were in their place.

Second, Miller asserts that “we must not treat those living (and dying) on the streets as a monolithic ‘homeless’ group.” Specifically, he notes that many of those who are currently homeless were forced over the edge of homelessness because of the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. We might need to assist those people differently from those who are chronically homeless or face challenges with mental illness or substance abuse.

Every person has unique circumstances and challenges and a faceless, one-size-fits-all approach won’t do much to help them. We need to recognize the dignity, potential, and value of each person and find a way to assist them one-by-one.

In the end, we should remember that whatever we choose to do, the way we treat those in need is a reflection of who we are as individuals and communities. As Miller stated, “History will judge us harshly if we sit idly by, observing the inhumanity and allowing bedlam to continue.”

You can read Miller’s full op-ed here.

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