Bueller … Bueller … Bueller.
We’ve been waiting for a state, county or city official to step up regarding the increasing violence in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City. Someone other than Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, who rightfully stated, “The violence and what is going on there is escalating. When it gets that out of hand, you can have a discussion about the National Guard with a straight face.”
But all we’ve heard is crickets. Large, Utah-famous, big-as-your-thumb, crickets. And unfortunately no seagulls, as of yet.
Last week was particularly bad for Utah’s homeless problem. A homeless man attacked a visiting professional baseball player from Nevada and sent him home with a concussion. He hit him over the head with a tire iron. Also last week a woman drove her car up onto the sidewalk, killing one and sending five to the hospital. There wouldn’t have been a group of six people camping on that sidewalk if we had done something to curb our downtown homeless problem.
The state needs to step in and take a larger role. The long-term solutions of creating more shelters and moving The Road Home are good ones, but we need short-term solutions too. Hughes, who admittedly says he doesn’t have the right answer, is at least suggesting solutions, including a “homeless czar” who can ignore red tape without worries of constituent backlash.
He may not be popular for saying what we’re doing isn’t enough, but that’s leadership. We need specific improvements on the lack of affordable housing and the lack of health care and the lack of rehabilitation opportunities.
But where are Utah’s other leaders in leading out on this issue? Are they waiting until they have another meeting to talk about which committee should form a task force to discuss options for 2020?
Where are the churches on this issue and why haven’t we heard from them?
Where are our national leaders? Has Rep. Chris Stewart weighed in on the scourge taking over his district? Have Rep. Rob Bishop or Rep. Mia Love offered solutions to host homeless populations in their districts? Where are the long-term management solutions for an epidemic of addiction, housing shortages and declining wages?
Or perhaps the problem is more than just our leaders’ reluctance to dirty their hands. Perhaps we are the problem. Look back at the March open house in Draper where residents shouted down Mayor Troy Walker’s suggestion to put a shelter in their city. They actually booed a homeless man on stage.
If we aren’t willing to be part of the solution, we can’t expect a solution. Our homeless population needs our help. It’s time to demand more from our leaders and more from ourselves.