Apartments not Jails…

A to Z 2015 Badge

My theme this year is: An Intimate Look at the Homeless and Mental Health Epidemic in America, which is the subtitle of my next book, The Stranger In My Recliner.

                                                                    Today’s Letter is:

a-z A


A-Z 2015 A Header

A couple of years ago my husband went out to a meeting and came home with an eighty-year-old homeless woman named Sophie. This woman spent the next two-and-a-half-years in our home and became part of our family.

He and I tried to help her and quickly realized that most organizations and referral systems that claim to ‘help’ the homeless actually do nothing to help anyone. They send those that need help from one referral agency to another.

hampster wheel photo

When I read about the state of Utah’s program, Apartments not Jail I was very curious. My favorite thing about the program is that it is working. Utah has reduced homelessness by more than seventy-eight-percent and is on track to eliminate homelessness in the state this year.

While Columbia South Carolina was telling its homeless population to move or get arrested; Hawaii’s State Rep was walking around smashing homeless people’s shopping carts with a sledgehammer; Philadelphia, Pa. was banning the feeding of the homeless and Raleigh, N.C. was asking religious groups to stop feeding the homeless the state of Utah under the leadership of then Governor John Huntsman realized that the cost of jailing or hospitalizing the homeless and or mentally ill was more expensive than simply providing them an apartment and a case worker. A caseworker that actually helped them to become self-sufficient, acquire services for mental health or addiction issues if needed or employment assistance. Utah’s model is now being used in several other states and I am going to do my best to make it happen in my state of Pennsylvania.

John Huntsman

John Huntsman


“Utah is on track to end homelessness by 2015. And it’s all down to one ingenious premise put forward by ex-state Governer Jon Huntsman eight years ago. Ending homelessness, said the one-time Republican leader candidate, could be achieved by giving those on the street one simple thing: a house.”

I encourage you to write, e-mail or call your state leaders and encourage them to bring this model to your state.

For my friends in other countries, does your country have a homeless problem?

Happy A-to-Z kick-off Day!!






32 Responses to “Apartments not Jails…”

  • I’m back, but this time starting with A and will work my way back to wherever I left off. Might make some headway today. I wasn’t aware Utah had this program, but knew Arizona was leading the Nation in housing homeless Vets. I’ll have to look into where Utah falls in that. I typically visit Utah mid summer and so will keep a sharper eye peeled this year. I know there are many programs that help homeless and think you’ve run into perhaps the exceptions.

  • Anne:

    Thanks for sharing that encouraging story. Hopefully more parts of the country are encouraged to follow suit and provide real, substantial aid. A great choice for the challenge.

  • What a large hearted man your husband is and how wonderfully act of his is going to impact so many through your words now, Doreen! More power to you.

  • I worry about the homeless, especially when they’re in the cold too. It’s so sad and I always think this is someone’s child and wonder about his/her family and life.

  • This is fascinating. I’ve never heard of the Apartments not Jails program but it sounds like a great, innovative idea. If this is only A, I can’t wait to follow the rest of your challenge!

  • Go, Utah! Now, that’s an action that a state can be proud of. I hope Minnesota gets wind of it.
    Play off the Page

  • Doreen, I live in Florida and was homeless for 11 months. What you describe is very typical and most of the homeless are at the lower end of the literacy spectrum, as well as being poor and usually ill, concurrently with some type of mental illness. The forms and bureaucracies are deliberately obfuscating to make it difficult for people to qualify for SSDI, which many so desperately need. Because I had a “protective filing” and am also highly literate, I received my SSDI in a record 5 months time, although I was only 55 at the time. I, then turned around and assisted several other people who seemed to be “dead in the water” with their filings, but only because the forms were so impossible to understand. I think the Utah governor is onto something. Our governor here in Florida has no such compassion and has done everything in his power to cut off aid to the, ahem, “entitled” and make it difficult to obtain and once obtained, hard to retain. I think what you are doing is terrific! Let me know if you ever need assistance, or a “bird’s eye” view of what it is like to be homeless and without resources. Thank you!

  • What an amazing challenge idea. I never know what to do to help the homeless. My church has a food bank as does the town. Churches that have the room set up sleeping areas, especially in harsh weather. As for programs, I’m not sure if Maryland’s plan works or not. Bringing this conversation out in the open worldwide is the only way there will be change.

  • I like it! Interesting program! And I do like John Huntsman, he seemed to be a classy guy during the last round of primaries. I know he’s a Republican, but we can’t all be perfect!

  • This time of year — when it’s freezing and you see people camping outside. It’s such a humanitarian issue. I’d love to read more about your experience.

  • I live in PA too. Thanks for the work you’re doing to make our Commonwealth better.

  • What a great theme for the A2Z challenge! As most countries, also Finland has ‘problems WITH homeless people’ – whilst I think we have a homeless problem.

    Lines to soup kitchens and organizations providing free food are constantly growing. It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have an address. It’s almost impossible to rent an apartment when you don’t have a job.

    The city of Helsinki has its own buildings with affordable flats. They do control your income when moving in, meaning that you can’t earn too much. However, they never follow up. I know some people who are living in modern, central and very cheap apartments. They were poor when they moved in, but things have changed during the years. Some of them are nowadays having normal jobs with an average salary, but they continue living there. They’re not only making an additional income on tax money, but also occupying flats.

    A to Z challenge. Participant number 1459

  • Doreen, I’m very interested in some of the practical implications of your very kind act. Hope that’s part of your book!

  • This is a great theme. Thanks for spreading awareness.
    Happy A to Z!

  • Utah has the right idea. I do hope other states follow suit – there are way too many homeless people on the streets, and it’s so sad, especially in New York, where the winter has been brutal.

  • Doreen, you have a great theme for the AtoZ Challenge. I look forward to reading your daily posts. Mental health is an issue that is near and dear to my heart so I will be back often. Thanks.

  • Hey Doreen! *waving like a crazy person*

    So happy that A to Z is connecting me with some of my older blogger buddies again.

    I think Utah has a great idea going. All the best with getting Pennsylvania to follow their example!

  • Thank you for sharing about Utah with us. And what a great kick of at A to Z! All the best!

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