DENVER — After Next with Kyle Clark aired a story Tuesday profiling an initiative on the Denver ballot, which would overturn the city’s urban camping ban, many viewers wondered if other cities had better approaches to dealing with their homeless problems.

Many of you suggested we take a look at Utah, which has had some success over the years.

In fact, Utah made national headlines in 2015, when the number of chronically homeless individuals there dropped to 178, down 91 percent from 2005’s total of 1,932.

“Salt Lake City made a huge investment in housing and services to get people off the street and into housing and services, and they saw dramatic reductions in the amount of people experiencing homelessness,” said Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, who admits she is only an observer to the success of Utah’s housing first program.

The program connected chronically homeless with housing, only charging them $50 a month or 30 percent of their income, whichever is greater. After those people were in housing, the state connected them with a case manager and services to treat them.

The program’s results continued through 2017, with the number of chronically homeless dropping to 163, until 2018, when the number nearly doubled to 298.

“It’s my understanding that that funding kind of tapered off. And as the funding tapered off, the services were no longer there, the subsidies were no longer there, and the new housing was no longer coming online,” Alderman said.

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But Alderman said the Salt Lake City example underscores how important it is to continually fund programs for the homeless.

“A short-term project won’t give you longer results unless you continue to invest,” she said.

Alderman said Denver needs a better strategic plan.

“We think Denver needs to make an investment in a homelessness strategy. Something that can cover a full spectrum of issues that people facing homelessness have so that we’re getting people into safe spaces on a short term basis," she said.

The Utah Homeless Task Force estimates that caring for a person who is chronically homeless can cost up to $20,000 a year, considering time in an emergency room, or jail, for example. The task force estimated that housing the same person might cost up to $8,000 per year.

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