Homeless Sites in Utah
Monday, 17 April 2017
by Erin McAllister, Paralegal
On March 25, 2016, Governor Gary Herbert signed into law HB436 (sponsored by Rep. Francis Gibson), providing $9.25 million in state funding during Fiscal Year 2016. HB 436 represents the first appropriation of the State’s commitment to fund $27 million over a three-year period. This initial funding, supplemented by private donations, as well as funding from Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, will be used to support homeless programs and services as well as begin initial plans for resource center sites in Salt Lake City.
Workshops were initiated to give residents opportunities to hear about the site selection process, learn about the homeless population, and provide feedback on how the new shelters — which city leaders have deemed homeless "resource centers" — should be incorporated into the community.
The goals of the new shelters/resource centers are to reform statewide efforts to house, shelter and service people experiencing homelessness at scattered sites and to break up the population at the Road Home. The aim is to serve families, single adults, children, and other specific populations experiencing homelessness in a more strategic way.
The Road Home shelter on Rio Grande will be closed after the four new resource centers are completed. As soon as the four facilities are up and operating, the building that is the Road Home facility will be transferred to the Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency and will no longer be used as a shelter space.
As part of this effort, Salt Lake City formed a Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission (HSSEC) with the task of recommending the best configuration and location for shelter and emergency homeless services. The recommended “scattered site model”—which calls for separate sites for identified sub-populations—was adopted by the Site Selection Evaluation Commission, with public input, in the fall of 2014. Adoption of the new model for providing crisis services to the homeless community marked the end of the first phase of the Commission’s work.
Authorities stress that they are not replacing one shelter with four. They are replacing one with an entirely new approach. New city and county homeless services programs, including affordable housing initiatives, rapid rehousing, and Pay for Success programs will be able to absorb and divert those who don’t occupy bed space in the four new resource centers. Communities have become increasingly hostile to relocating homeless shelters in Salt Lake City and surrounding communities. Public meetings on where shelters should be located have been met with boos and jeers. In Draper, a loud chorus of boos met public officials who considered that community for a site. The leaders of all of Utah's major religions have issued an open letter calling for civility and compassion on issues surrounding homelessness. The letter is signed by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, Salt Lake Calvary Baptist Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, and Congregation Kol Ami.
“The depth and strength of a community’s character can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. As a group representing many faiths, we implore all to seek a deeper understanding of the many paths that lead to homelessness and to join our common efforts to assist our homeless brothers and sisters in meeting their needs for housing and other services that will help them achieve economic independence and a life of dignity.”
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