Outdoor spaces, including parks, have become homes for people who access housing in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“This year, particularly, we have had a lot of families unsheltered, living in cars and even in tents with children," said Wendy Garvin, who leads the nonprofit organization, Unsheltered Utah,
Garvin has been helping the unhoused for three years. She visits homeless camps just about every night, providing people with donated supplies. Those supplies are becoming harder to come by as the number of those temporarily homeless in Utah rises.
“More and more often, we're seeing your regular everyday working family not able to make rent," Garvin said. "Most of the people that we know out here have jobs."
Steve Berg, who is with the National Alliance to End Homelessness, says it's become increasingly difficult for people with low incomes to find housing. He believes that's why there is so much homelessness right now, especially in the Mountain West region.
“You know, the community leaders, the mayors, the council members, they're all very interested in getting more jobs in the community, which brings people into the community. But in many, many places, people spend a lot of time of it thinking about local economic development and bringing more jobs in, but they're just not spending the time thinking about where are people going to live,” Berg said.
Last year, Utah ranked among the top for job expansion. Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and Colorado also ranked in the top 10. They've all seen a rise in homelessness.
Andrew Johnston, director of Homeless Policy and Outreach in Salt Lake City, admits there is a housing crisis that expands to the shelters. They're at capacity, according to Johnston.
“We're opening up emergency beds right now, a couple hundred of them just for the cold weather times,” Johnston said.
He adds that permanent housing is an uphill battle. With more than $20 million in funding committed to the effort, 400 units are expected to be completed by the end of winter.
Until more people are off the streets, Garvin will continue her effort to provide the unhoused community with necessities.
“We're only as good as the way we treat the least person in our population," she said. "We as a society are judged by the way that these people are being treated right now tonight."