Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes emphasized Monday that the state is facing a homelessness crisis and it cannot be solved by one city, one county or the state alone. The Republican lawmaker made his case to the Utah House of Representatives on the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Salt Lake City is trying to open four new homeless shelter/resource centers with the help of funding from the state legislature. But the process has been contentious.
Speaker Hughes told House members success is only possible when all stakeholders in the process are unified.
“We are partners in this,” Hughes said. “We will have every one of those dollars accounted for and if our partners buckle under this political pressure, if the hard choices just become too hard, then we’ll just keep moving forward and we will go do that job and we will find those willing stakeholders, because they are out there to get this job done.”
Hughes announced he’s working with Utah’s congressional delegation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to eliminate the criminal element within the homeless population.
“These aren’t dirtball drug dealers.” Hughes said. “They’re not petty thieves. Here’s what’s scary. This is a sophisticated crime enterprise. We have drug cartels who are in our community.”
Hughes said in an interview his message to local government leaders was not a threat but a resolve to move forward.
Matthew Rojas is a spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. He said the mayor was grateful for the speaker’s comments and they are reflective of everyone’s desire to move forward. Rojas stressed that the city is sticking with the original plan to build four new shelters and close The Road Home, despite political pressure.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said he was also encouraged to hear Speaker Hughes comments. He said using taxpayer dollars wisely is more important than ever.