Salt Lake City has scrapped plans to build four new homeless shelters in favor of two and a hard deadline is set for closing The Road Home.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski joined other local and state officials Friday at the state capital to announce the changes.
“Today, in an effort to address concerns from the state, county and city, including my concern that Salt Lake City not be the primary location for homeless services, but a strong partner, Salt Lake City has committed to building just two resources centers capped at just 200 beds each,” Biskupski says.
The controversial Simpson Avenue site has been withdrawn as well as the city-owned property at 648 West 100 South. Salt Lake City will move forward with constructing shelters on High Avenue and 700 south. Salt Lake County has committed to finding a location for a third shelter outside Salt Lake City- possibly in Murray. The downtown shelter will close June 30th, 2019. Biskupski had stood firm on the four sites she selected back in December, but after further study officials determined three sites would work logistically and financially.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says a revamped service model will address individual causes of homelessness and divert people from emergency shelters and into housing whenever possible.
“We’re not waiting for the new homeless resource centers to be constructed in order to understand and refine the service system,” McAdams says. “And we will be ready when the doors to these new homeless resource centers open.”
Utah lawmakers passed a small Medicaid expansion plan last year, but without a waiver from the federal government, House Speaker Greg Hughes says lawmakers will repurpose that money for homeless services-specifically behavioral health. Hughes jokes that it’s been a difficult but rewarding process.
“It has been absolutely miserable,” Hughes says. “This has been the best moment from the time we decided to do something and get this done.”
The Utah Legislature has already committed $27 million to paying for the new shelters.
Salt Lake City Council Chair Stan Penfold said the city council found out about the new plans Thursday night. He says the council will continue its commitment to ensuring the two new shelters minimally impact surrounding neighborhoods.