The problem of homelessness in America continues to grow including in place like Utah. To resolve the issue, more safety nets are needed, requiring states to spend money they don’t want to spend
Meet Pioneer Park Coalition boardmember Tony Allred. He is the Fire Captain for Station 6 and an advocate for the safety of the city’s firefighters and residents.
Here at the Pioneer Park Coalition, we’re introducing our amazing board members. This month, we’re putting the spotlight on David Durocher. He oversees the operations at The Other Side Academy, a facility that helps those who have suffered from long-term drug addiction, have a lengthy criminal history or have experienced chronic homelessness. The Other Side Academy is a two-year residential Life Skills Academy, one that works with both men and women.
David has been with The Other Side Academy for more than 3 years. Located at 667 East and 100 South, the facility is a place where those who have lost themselves can find hope. According to David, the best part of his job is giving hope and inspiration to people who have been as broken as he once was. He believes that anyone can reinvent themselves as long as they’re willing to put in the work to do so. Sometimes, people who have struggled just need another person to believe in them. Often, David is that person.
David’s company rehabilitates habitual offenders, those who have abused drugs or committed crimes for years. Along with rehabilitating people, The Other Side Academy does it with no cost to the community since the organization is fully funded through its training school businesses. The academy also saves the community millions of dollars annually because instead of incarcerating those who are habitual offenders, the academy is turning them into citizens who contribute positively to society. According to David, there are about 100 students at his school.
The Other Side Academy is located close to the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande area. In fact, they are almost neighbors. In addition to being in proximity to each other, the two organizations are connected by the fact that The Other Side Academy’s students are usually the people who are causing problems for the Pioneer Park Coalition. They are basically partners because their respective missions align.
One struggle that David is currently facing is that The Other Side Academy isn’t considered a “qualified service provider” by those who are directing people who need the kind of rehab that the facility offers. David pointed out that his company is highly effective at resolving the underlying issues, the ones that typically cause people to turn to drugs, become homeless or engage in criminal activity. When the cause of a problem is resolved, people are less likely to fall back into a destructive lifestyle pattern.
David does feel that the Pioneer Park and Rio Grande communities are on the right path when it comes to dealing with the area’s problems. He’d like for people to have the choice to apply for his program instead of being sent to jail and hopes that more will be given the option.
When asked why he does what he does, he said, “I do what I do because I once was part of the population that I now serve. It is a labor of love for me and a way for me to balance the scales for the wreckage of my past.” David is a valuable member of our board, and we’re glad that he’s a part of our organization.
By Michelle Miller | December 18, 2018
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is reporting an uptick in homelessness three years in a row.
Does this mean there are more people experiencing homelessness? It’s hard to say, given the current metrics used to count “unsheltered” homelessness.
Unsheltered individuals are those which are sleeping in their cars or on the streets—not in a shelter. It does not take into account individuals and families staying in motels, couch surfing, or in other unstably housed situations. This means a potential gap of thousands of individuals not being accounted for.
The Point in Time count is currently the only metric used to gain a better understanding of how many people are experiencing homelessness in the United States.
The system is far from perfect.
Over the course of three nights every January, service providers and volunteers hit the streets to do a head count of unsheltered individuals. It’s not hard to imagine the estimated 194,000 unsheltered individuals in 2017 is on the low-end. There is a big push to get more affordable housing online. Is it needed? Absolutely. Is it the cure to homelessness? Absolutely not. Affordable housing, while necessary, is only one piece of the puzzle.
Families and individuals who have been experiencing homeless for extended periods need help to become more self-sufficient by teaching job skills, social skills, and life skills so they can end the cycle of poverty and homelessness once and for all. Basic skills housed individuals take for granted such as cooking, cleaning, and budgeting.
You can give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The time has come to grab our poles and head toward the water.
Recently, David Garbett, our Executive Director, announced that he will be pursuing other opportunities. We appreciate David’s work with the Pioneer Park Coalition. His vision and desire to build bridges has made invaluable contributions in moving our work forward. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.
By Michelle Miller
Pioneer Park Coalition is dedicated to keeping an eye on crime data for Salt Lake City in the year following Operation Rio Grande. We wrote two previous blogs about crime at Operation Rio Grande’s beginning. I am now revisiting crime stats after the one-year mark. The news remains similar: crime is low city-wide post-Operation Rio Grande, rates continue to be much lower in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande area, but there are some neighborhoods that need attention (Central City, Poplar Grove, and Glendale).
In our previous blogs we highlighted Salt Lake City’s crime rates from 2013 through 2017 in select neighborhoods. We focused on serious crimes (aggravated assault, burglary, rape/sexual assault, homicide, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and robbery) as well as non-serious crimes (curfew/loitering, disorderly conduct, drug abuse, stolen property, vandalism, and drunkenness). We focused solely on Salt Lake City because Salt Lake City Police Department has the most transparent and accessible crime data for public access. If we could get the other cities data we would look at it too. The following graphic is a look at crime rates up to December 2017:
Now, let’s take a look to see what’s been happening between October 2013 and September 2018:
We kept the majority of neighborhoods the same and included the Poplar Grove and Glendale neighborhoods. We chose these neighborhoods based on where we have heard Operation Rio Grande has dispersed crime. The statistics show a gemerally positive story, especially in the downtown area. As you can see there was a spike in August 2018 which can probably be attributed to hotter weather and longer days. Weather patterns create a natural ebb and flow to crime rates as can be observed in the data.
But this story is not entirely positive at the neighborhood level. Some specific areas have failed to see drops in crime or may have even experienced increases. To better illuminate what’s happening in surrounding areas, here is the same graph excluding downtown:
If you feel your neighborhood has been excluded, we apologize. We are trying to focus on the neighborhoods facing the most problems. To see what’s happening in your neighborhood, we encourage you to go to the Salt Lake City Police Department website and play around with it. As this graph shows, there are some neighborhoods that have not moved in the right direction. In particular, Salt Lake City should be giving more attention to the Central City, Poplar Grove, and Glendale neighborhoods.
An overview of all neighborhoods for all crimes paints a continued positive picture. Since the start of Operation Rio Grande, crime has decreased to near historic lows in the last five years across Salt Lake City:
Something worth mentioning—this data is inclusive of everyone committing crimes in Salt Lake City and is not exclusive to the homeless population. Being homeless is not a crime. The mere sight of people experiencing homelessness does not necessarily mean a crime has been or will be committed. This crime data does not mean that there was not some dispersion of people experiencing homelessness into surrounding neighborhoods since Operation Rio Grande. If that is true, not all people experiencing homelessness are committing crimes and not all people who commit crimes are homeless.
In summary, Operation Rio Grande continues to be a huge net positive on crime rates in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande neighborhood and Salt Lake City, as a whole. Central City, Poplar Grove, and Glendale, however, need more attention.
The Pioneer Park Coalition and Salt Lake City contributed $950,000 towards creating a multi-use lawn and installing event and pedestrian lighting. As the Great Lawn will open in Spring 2019, the Coalition is currently collaborating with the Downtown Community Council, Downtown Alliance, City employees, and other stakeholders on redesigning the rest of the park and a public-private partnership proposal.
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from members of the community is “How can I help the homeless? I know we aren’t supposed to give money to panhandlers, so what are some alternatives?” Today we are going to spotlight a few organizations we feel do a great job reaching and helping those in the most need who find themselves experiencing homelessness.
The Other Side Academy
One amazing organization helping those who have hit rock bottom is The Other Side Academy. Their website states,
“The Other Side Academy is a school where our students learn vocational, pro-social, and life skills so they can succeed on “the other side”. It is a school where our students can learn marketing skills, business skills, and gain experience in various trades.
It is a school where our students learn how to make and keep promises and how to live life with integrity, accountability, and with love. Our students will have the opportunity to working in our various vocational training schools, such as The Other Side Movers and Promise Land Food.
Our school is for men and women who have hit rock bottom, usually from a lifetime of addiction and criminal behavior, who now want to learn a better way to live. The Other Side Academy is available for these men and women pre- and post- sentencing and those within the jails and prisons within the state of Utah as well as those convicts, substance abusers, homeless and others who walk in off the street.”
So how can you help? The Other Side Academy offers many ways to help, from monetary and in-kind donations to volunteer opportunities. Another great way? Hire them! The Other Side Movers and the new Promised Land Food Truck are operated by Academy students and give them real world business experience as well as self-sufficiency. See all current opportunities here.
Another great program here in Utah that helps many families who are trying to get back on their feet after experiencing homelessness is Families First. The program description from their website reads:
“Families First is Utah’s premier intensive in-home intervention designed to teach parents skills to change the unwanted behaviors of their children, and to improve family functioning. Many of the referral’s we receive are from healthy families who are simply looking for better more effective ways to discipline their children and/or control behaviors.
The children in the families we serve often have a variety of behavioral and/or emotional problems. Some have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, some are struggling with school behaviors, some are simply ungovernable, and others are reacting poorly to dysfunctional environments.
Many families live at or below poverty level and are struggling to find jobs, housing, clothing, and food for their children, while others are successful in these endeavors. All of these families have the common desire to change behaviors, learn new ways of interacting, and to create more peace and harmony in their homes.”
There are many ways to help at Families First, and the parent organization Utah Youth Village. To see all opportunities, check out their site here.
As we well know, homelessness often goes hand in hand with addiction. Odyssey House provides drug treatment programs for those from all walks of life. Their treatment programs are consistently ranked as some of the highest in the nation and they are constantly working at expanding to be able to treat more individuals. They are all about people, not profit, and donations are greatly appreciated. To read more about the programs, donate, or see other ways to help, visit the site here.
First Step House
Another great organization providing assistance to those experiencing homelessness, drug addiction, and other hardships is the First Step House. Their mission statement on their website reads,
“First Step House is a leading organization in the field of addiction recovery. We help people who are struggling with substance use and behavioral health disorders. We offer a range of services including residential treatment, outpatient treatment, long-term recovery management, transitional housing, case management, and evidence-based therapies. Our goal is to create an environment that fosters, supports, and enables long-term recovery.”
Want to help? First Step House provides many opportunities including monetary and in-kind donations and assistance with community fundraisers and events. To find out more check out ways to help here.
These are just a few of the many organizations that provide services to the homeless population of Salt Lake City. If you find yourself wondering how you can help, we hope you will consider donating or volunteering with one of these organizations. Knowing your money and time will be helping the individual as well as the community as a whole and seeing the change in action can be such a rewarding experience.
Six months into Operation Rio Grande, aggregate crime in Salt Lake City decreased 25%, the lowest point for the city since 2013. Every SLC neighborhood examined in our analysis saw its aggregate crime rates diminish or continue falling after Operation Rio Grande, with one exception. In Liberty-Wells, crime rates roughly plateaued or had a slight upward trend—though still below the 2016 peak.
We have examples to follow as we re-envision Pioneer Park as a true public gathering place where everyone feels welcome.
On any given day, visitors and residents of New York City can visit the Bryant Park website and be overwhelmed with the sheer amount and variety of activities going on in the park that day (and night).
A New Vision for Pioneer Park: family-friendly and inviting to all 24/7
As I sit down to write this blog post, for example, I could hit up Joe Coffee Company for my morning brew or select from a number of other food kiosks. I could take my kids down at 11 a.m. for Bryant Park Games where we can play board games as a family. After our epic Monopoly match we can head over to the ice skating rink for opening day at noon, grabbing a bite to eat at Breads Bakery on the way. After skating, we can have a battle for the ages at the Ping Pong tournament or visit the Art Cart to utilize the free drawing and craft supplies and take advantage of free art instruction.
I could go on. But this just gives you a taste of a vision. The vision we have for our own Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City.
Bryant Park in New York City isn’t the first to embrace the concept of a publicly owned yet privately run park. And they certainly won’t be the last. But what they do have is a history. Looking at Bryant Park 20 years ago, you would have found a haven for drug dealers and a public bathroom for the homeless. The fountains long dried up and covered in graffiti. If you have visited SLC’s Pioneer Park in the last decade, this may sound familiar.
So what changed? How did Bryant Park go from being a seedy NYC armpit to New York City’s beloved Town Square? It started with a vision. A public-private partnership between elected officials, NYC Parks and Recreation, and local businesses. It started with a commitment; and a group of people saying “This is OUR neighborhood. Let’s take it back.”
This is how we know it can be done. Other examples include Millennium Park in Chicago and Civic Center Park in our neighboring Denver. These cities faced many of the same challenges we now face and they figured it out. They united as a city and rose above it, creating beautiful, thriving parks that are cultural activity centers.
Pioneer Park is uniquely located and positioned to be just as successful as these examples. And we are well on our way. A small taste of the large scale dream we have in mind include the Downtown Farmer’s Market and Twilight Concert Series, both which have found a home in the park and are run by private entities.
Are you ready to join us? Maybe someday soon you can wake up on a Saturday morning and visit the Pioneer Park website to plan out the day with YOUR family.
Contact us to get involved. We would love to have you be a part of the vision!