“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,…
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Is there anything more American than to take in the poor and the needy as this poetic imagery of Emma Lazarus so epitomizes? After all the first American’s, the pilgrims, knew what it was like to be homeless as many of them were driven from their home countries to the “new world”. Of these pioneers were the uneducated, convicts, religious escapees, and others trying to make a better life for themselves. They built this great nation from the foundations of their poverty. As descendants and benefactors of these first Americans, do we raise the torch or shut the door on those who are now homeless in our communities?
In Utah County, the American spirit of industry and growth is alive and well as evident by our developing businesses and growing community. However, the rate of housing has not advanced with the demand thus creating a housing shortage among families of all economic levels. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, we are short 47,000 units as a state for our low-income population. The resources and housing for the homeless in our community are overburdened as neighboring communities war over who will shoulder the responsibility to care for the needy. Meanwhile as the battle ensues, the homeless population migrates to Utah County. Currently, the transitional housing at the Food and Care Coalition has a 50-person waiting list for those trying to get into one of our 38 beds; typically the waiting list only consists of 10 – 15 people.  With the recent decision to ban camping in Provo and funds for hotel vouchers quickly running out, the homeless in our community are left with few options.
Gathered together as concerned Americans, a group of religious leaders from Christian, Muslim and Protestant faiths held a discussion just a few weeks ago in Salt Lake City on how to address the animosity created within the recent homeless controversy. Their united conclusion: “The depth and strength of a community’s character can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.” As compassionate citizens and community members, we ask “What can I do? What is the solution to such a complex issue?” Although there isn’t one clear-cut answer, here are a few suggestions on how to take action in your community. First, become aware of the homeless issues in your community. Attend public forums and become a voice to advocate for the needy. Strength comes in numbers and every voice is needed in this battle. Second, make a donation to a charitable organization that directly serves the homeless such as the Pamela Atkinson Foundation, Community Action, and the Food and Care Coalition. A $50 donation provides a client 3 meals a day for an entire week at the Food and Care Coalition. Let us join together as Americans to raise a guiding torch to those now homeless and in poverty in our communities.
post by Milliece D.-volunteer coordinator, Food and Care Coalition
 Ritchey, Julia. “Housing, Homeless Projects Gain More Funding From Legislature.” Kuer. 9 March 2017. Web. 14 April 2017.
 Jones, Chris. “Provo may pass ordinance cracking down on homeless camping.” KUTV.com. 7 February 2017. Web. 18 April 2017.
 Anderson, Taylor W. “Provo city ordinance prohibits homeless campers in public areas.” The Salt Lake Tribune. 23 February 2017. Web. 18 April 2017.
 Hanson, Kurt. “More homeless move to Utah County after Operation Diversion raids in Salt Lake City.” Daily Herald. 30 January 2017. Web. 18 April 2017.
 McKellar, Katie. “Utah faith leaders call for ‘compassion, civility’ amid controversy over homelessness.” Deseret News. 13 April, 2017. Web. 18 April 2017.