Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams are asking the Utah Legislature for $27 million dollars to reconfigure homeless services in the region.
Here’s the idea: small-scale homeless shelters that serve distinct populations, scattered throughout the region. Salt Lake City Mayor Ben McAdams says shelters could be designated for families with children, single men and single women.
“I think there’s still some decisions as to whether that means for emergency shelter services scattered throughout the urban core or scattered through the greater metro area,” McAdams says. “To make those decisions we’re going to evaluate which approach is going to help us best achieve our goals.”
The goals, McAdams says, are to divert individuals and families from emergency shelters whenever possible, meet the basic needs of people in crisis, and create more low-income housing options.
Bill Tibbetts, Associate Director of Crossroads Urban Center is skeptical. He worries about existing zoning laws that prohibit shelters in certain neighborhoods, as well as pushback from neighbors.
“I think it’s going to be a lot harder to locate a bunch of different shelters around the county than some people talking today seem to think,” Tibbetts says.
Officials say they need $27 million dollars from the state, mostly one-time money to move forward.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes did not say he supported the request, but that there is interest.
“I think you’ve seen enough in terms of seeds planted,” Hughes says. “You had lawmakers here, bipartisan. So I think we have what it takes to have that policy discussion and to have the debate about priorities.”
Salt Lake City Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski supports the effort, but stressed that she would like to see shelters located outside Salt Lake City limits.