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Cox: Think before you give to the homeless

SALT LAKE CITY — People with generous hearts are actually creating a big problem downtown – by trying to help the homeless.

“We like to tout this all the time, we are a very generous state,” said Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. “This time of year people are really thinking about how they can give and how they can help. Unfortunately, sometimes those good intentions lead to not-so-good-outcomes.”

He joined other advocates and officials at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall to talk about it.


They say too many Utahns are bringing food or coats or other donations downtown and just handing them out on the streets. They think they are helping the homeless, but city officials say donating directly to homeless individuals on the street often become items left on the street for cleanup.

“Public health is concerned about the health risk of handing food out on the street, public safety is concerned about your safety and others when handing things out on the street. They have seen fights,” said Salt Lake City waste and recycling program manager Cory Young.

Instead, they urge Utahns to check first with homeless service providers on what they need first, like Catholic Community Services, The Road Home, Hope 4 Change, and others. Many websites list those items.

“That way, you can give effectively,” said Matthew Melville with Catholic Community Services.

Melville says they need jackets, beanies, gloves, pants and hygiene supplies at this time of year – but they also could use cash donations or volunteer hours from the public.