The Business Advisory Board (BAB) is made up of city business owners and community leaders who partner with Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development. Its members are appointed by the mayor and must be SLC residents and/or have ownership interest in a Salt Lake City business. BAB helps direct city economic policy, promotes small business growth, supports local entrepreneurs, and encourages businesses to relocate to our city.

As part of an ongoing effort to keep SLC’s business community informed, the BAB is blogging synopses of monthly meetings and major initiatives.  Here’s the latest on efforts from BAB to support our homeless population.

Salt Lake City has a lot to be proud of. Over the last year, we’ve come together to address homelessness in our city in a thoughtful, strategic way. Service providers like The Road Home, advocacy groups like the Homeless Outreach Service Team, and neighborhood business associations like the Pioneer Park Coalition, River District Business Alliance and Central Ninth Neighborhood District have teamed up with city, county and state government to tackle the problem head on.

Operation Rio Grande kicked off in mid-August with a concerted effort to stop crime, clean up the streets, and provide addiction and mental health services to those in need. Now, we embark upon the third phase of this collaborative effort: Dignity of Work will help those experiencing homelessness transition back into the labor force.

The Business Advisory Board (BAB) is keenly aware that our local business community has been disproportionately impacted by the rapid increase in homeless population, but our businesses and entrepreneurs are also uniquely positioned to effect positive change. The Salt Lake business community is a force for progress in our region, our neighborhoods, and in the lives of our most vulnerable residents.

Over the last few months, BAB has been investigating the homelessness issue and talking with area business leaders. We are working to compile resources that empower businesses to improve our community. This is an ongoing process, and we welcome input from all stakeholders.

Right now, we are advocating a three-pronged approach for businesses working to end homelessness: Hire, Support & Give.

Hire: Share the Dignity of Work

 The SLC Department of Economic Development recently published an informative blog post explaining Operation Rio Grande’s Dignity of Work protocols. The Utah Department of Workforce Services has developed a “DREAM” Team program (“DREAM” – Dignity Restored Through Employment and Mentoring). Currently, the DREAM Team is looking for mentors from local businesses to work with DWS, helping shepherd people through their individualized employment plans from work readiness activities to supportive employment. If you’re interested, please contact Workforce Development Specialist Vicki Giesler at vgiesler@utah.gov or 801-503-7296.

Advantage Services can also help you find and hire individuals who are ready to return to the workforce. Advantage is a nonprofit social enterprise that has been helping people overcome their barriers to employment since 1992. It will serve as your fee-free employment agency, even offering a temp-to-hire model designed to lighten your HR load.

Offering a much-needed hand up makes you feel good, but it can also be a smart move financially. When you hire through an agency like Advantage Services, you may be eligible for tax credits totaling $4,000. Both the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the Utah Tax Credit for Employment of Persons Who Are Homeless (HTC) offer tax incentives for each qualified new hire.

Support: Nurture Holistically

We know the homeless need more than a job to get their lives back on track. Businesses strengthen the Salt Lake community by welcoming people, encouraging them to take active roles and be the best they can be.

The Downtown Alliance has taken a leadership role in two people-helping-people initiatives. The Clean Team works to improve the appearance of the Rio Grande area and Pioneer Park, while the Green Team is part-job/part-education for homeless women learning about urban farming while tending a community garden located behind The Gateway. In addition to the Green Team’s hands-on work, there is a classroom component one day each week.

The Downtown Alliance is always looking for people to mentor program participants. Female business owners are in particularly high demand. You can also volunteer to lead employment training programs. If you’re interested, please contact Director of Community Services Camille Winnie at camille@downtownslc.org.

We’re also looking for creative ways to expand access to housing. If you own residential rental property in the city, you might want to make it more accessible to homeless persons by considering a broader set of background check results when it makes sense on a case-by-case basis.

Give: Your Time, Talents & Stuff

 There has been a broad public education campaign to deter people from giving money to panhandlers. Studies have shown this does not alleviate (and may even exacerbate) the problems of homelessness. But there are many smarter ways to give, especially in partnership with the agencies working to create a better Salt Lake City.

All Staff Volunteer Days are always a hit! Bring your team out to support the work of social service providers. There are many opportunities to prepare and serve meals, clean up public areas, tend community gardens, and maybe even do some light handyman duties.

Your office can also collect and donate goods and equipment. Contact service providers to see what they most need and then organize a drive for supplies, food, hygiene items, etc. Get your customers in on it perhaps by offering a discount or other incentive for donating items.

The Business Advisory Board values the effort you put in every day to make our city an even better place to live and work. We will continue to research and report on ways local business can help to end homelessness.

For now, we recommend you contact these providers as you plan your company’s advocacy, outreach and charitable giving:

Rescue Mission

463 South 400 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 746-1006

 

The Road Home

210 S. Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 359-4142

Weigand Homeless Resource Center

235 S. Rio Grande St.
(801) 363-7710

During this season of giving and gratitude, we give thanks for all you do to strengthen Salt Lake City, and we look forward to working with you in 2018.