Paige Nelson


Salt Lake City is determined to take charge of curbing homelessness: Who is putting in the work?


On my way home from work one day on the TRAX, I was mulling over possible ideas for my enterprise story. I hadn’t the faintest clue as to what I thought would be important enough to write about. Something that equally hadn’t already been beaten into the ground yet and something that I was interested in. While I was sitting there a woman got onto the TRAX with a stroller full of personal belongings, crying. She asked me for directions to the nearest Smith’s, and I told her it was two stops up. She didn’t ask me for money, or for food, just directions to the nearest grocery store. 

This changed my perspective quickly on the homeless population of Salt Lake City. This whole time I had been stereotyping them as drug users, panhandlers, and threats to my safety. But that isn’t always the case. I decided in that moment that I wanted to better understand the homelessness problem in Salt Lake City.

I started with this broad idea that I would be able to single-handedly understand homelessness, how it pertains to Utah, and how to fix it, all within this one assignment. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. But I had to start somewhere. 

My first contact was with the University of Utah’s Student Affairs Division. I talked to Kimberly Hall, an associate director of development, who explained to me that a lot of students don’t know what help is out there if they are facing things like food scarcity, financial problems, and homelessness. 

I was then able to hold a Zoom interview with Kat Kahn, director of development at The Road Home, a noteworthy homeless shelter organization in the Salt Lake Valley. She gave me insight on how to break down the stereotypes often portrayed onto people experiencing homelessness and stressed the importance of creating affordable housing in the area.

My final interview helped me tie up loose ends in my article. I met with Andrew Johnston, chief strategy leader of Volunteers of America. He explained to me how organizations like his work with people living on the streets and help them find the correct path to get them back into the community in a healthy way. He discussed rehab and mental health centers, and homeless shelters that his organization helps provide to people experiencing homelessness. 

Upon completion of my interviews, I had a lot of scattered information I needed to sort through. I came up with a plan to focus on how different organizations in the Salt Lake City are combatting homelessness, and was able to incorporate some really interesting quotes and anecdotes into my story. 

Once I had gotten my topic refined, the words came quite easily. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Zoom interviews because it allowed me to go back and not only listen, but watch how the interviewees spoke to get more concrete and descriptive details into my article. 

Wrapping up my article felt so refreshing because I was able to find a nice balance between informing the audience as well as showing my journey learning along the way. It was really rewarding to see it all come together in the end!


I grew up in Arlington, Washington, a small town about an hour north of Seattle. With forests and mountains surrounding me, I had a lot of room to let my imagination run wild. But the place I loved the most was inside my collection of books. 

Because of Washington’s rainy climate, I spent a lot of time nestled up on the couch with my favorite authors. I read hundreds of novels from “Harry Potter” to “The Selection” to “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” and through them all I had created a secondary life. One full of comfort and bliss.

As I grew older I learned the world wasn’t fitting into the fairytale ending I was so accustomed to. I started paying more attention to the news, reading more timely articles, and developing educated thoughts of my own.

Today I am 18 years old, on track to graduate from the University of Utah with a political science degree and an emphasis on law and politics in a total of 2.5 years. I hope to one day work as a news correspondent or share my ideas with the country as an elected official. 

However, politics can be exhausting, and that’s why I find it so beneficial to write. I have a blog that is basically my diary for strangers to read, and I actually find great joy in writing essays for my classes. One day I hope to write a book, maybe a memoir of my life’s accomplishments or I might take on the next great American novel. 

For now, writing remains a hobby as I pursue my dream of working in politics. And whether I choose to pursue a masters program, law school, or jump straight into my profession, I know that I will always find comfort in putting words down on a page.