Ghorbani addresses homelessness, affordable housing during Switchpoint town hall

ST. GEORGE  Wanting to hear from those facing homelessness while also showing them there is a potential future member of congress who listens to their issues, Democratic congressional candidate Shireen Ghorbani held a town hall meeting Monday at the Switchpoint Community Resource Center.

“We need representatives and people at our federal level who focus on the issues of poverty and homelessness,” Ghorbani said. “Frankly, we just don’t have strong advocates for those living in poverty and living on the edge.”

While Utah is doing well to combat homelessness and poverty, Ghorbani said, overall, she has had many homeless people tell her that they feel “no one is fighting for them.”

Instead of passing policies that help empower the homeless, Congress ends up empowering the rich and corporations instead, she said.

Ghorbani is running for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District against incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Stewart.

Read more: Man hijacks Stewart-Ghorbani congressional debate with shouts of vaccines causing autism

Shireen Ghorbani, the Democratic candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, hold a town hall meeting on homelessness at the Switchpoint Community Resource Center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 29, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Three primary areas that need to be addressed in order to combat homelessness and poverty are having stable jobs and livable wages, having more affordable housing and access to affordable health care, particularly in relation to mental health and addiction recovery.

“This is one of the big challenges facing our community, whether it’s in Salt Lake City or St. George,” Ghorbani said.

Access to affordable health care holds personal importance to Ghorbani as she talked about how her late mother had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and the heavy financial toll that created. She also said her father had been an alcoholic with addiction issues who lost his job and home because of it.

Ghorbani’s father would end up checking into a homeless shelter where he was able to access addiction recovery services and “got back on his feet,” she said.

If mental health and addiction recovery services are not made more readily available, then those facing homelessness, as well as those who may find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system, won’t be able to break the cycle they’ve fallen into, Ghorbani said.

As for affordable housing, Ghorbani knew it was an issue in northern Utah, yet hadn’t known it extended to southwest Utah until she started campaigning, she said.

Finding housing for those facing homelessness has been an ongoing issue in St. George and elsewhere as many find rental rates to be beyond their ability to afford.

“There are very few places available to rent, and those that are available are very expensive,” Ghorbani said.

A resident of the Switchpoint Community Resource Center shares his frustration at not being able to find affordable housing or access to needed mental health services, St. George, Utah, Oct. 29, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s the same story I hear again and again,” she said. “Affordable housing is a challenge we are facing across the entire state and I don’t see any decisions being made right now that are going to make it better.”

As a way to try to alleviate the issue, Switchpoint has been involved in the creation of the RiverWalk Village project, a 55-unit apartment complex that will offer affordable housing to those who qualify. The project has been in the works since 2016.

Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, said she was happy for the opportunity to host a town hall at the resource center.

“My feeling on the politics is: it’s all about awareness,” Hollowell said, adding that a candidate taking interest in the homeless, as well as helping them know they are as eligible to vote as anyone else, helps them know “that they have worth” and that “their voice counts too.”

There were at least 10 Switchpoint residents sitting among those who attended to town hall meeting, Hollowell said.

Since its opening in late 2014, Switchpoint has sheltered an estimated 4,100 individuals. As for how many people have been able to take advantage of Switchpoint’s services, Hollowell said is that estimate is about 14,000.

Ghorbani and her campaign staff toured Switchpoint during a stop in St. George over the summer.

Monday’s visit to Switchpoint brought a close to a series of town hall meetings held by Ghorbani’s campaign. Previous town halls tackled the issues of education, health care and criminal justice reform.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler | @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • mmsandie October 30, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Switchpoint has done great things to help out in this town. Bu s much to do,, and I know some people choose t9 be homeless to avoid, taxes, alimony, and work.. but remember Trumo is wealthy only because his father left h8m with the legacy, he does not care for the poor or middle class even.. now he is trying to give tax breaks to middle class just to get republicans elected..
    democrats have always helped the middle class and poor, remember social security, and Medicare came about by Democrats..
    The new living apts, will help, and I hope businesses will do their share of hiring these people..

    • Redbud October 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Democrats do help the poor, but the problem is they cater to those who want handouts. Money is being taken out of our paychecks to support people who are able and willing to work, but choose not to. Until the Democratic party changes their tune on this, I can’t possibly support them. Many feel the same way.

  • jpff October 30, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    The dems have some good ideas as they wish to be cognizant of those in unfortunate situations. Unfortunately, my observation is that they want to add all kinds of benefits to others while making those who are working pay more taxes to cover the costs. They advocate certain issues, such as open abortion paid for by the public (even late-term), allowing illegals to get into or remain inside the US at a heavy cost to the citizens, getting rid of the death penalty, allowing fully-functional boys to shower next to young girls in middle school and high school locker rooms, forcing bakers to make cakes advocating practices that go totally against their moral beliefs, etc. I am not totally happy with the package offered by Republicans either. The best answer is an Independent who can choose the best from both parties with obligation to either. A handful of them could have the power to look carefully over the issues and not be forced into a biased vote based upon what their party leaders demand. Those few could restore power to the people and take away the ability of one group or another to run things one-way.

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