Lawmakers reach deal with Salt Lake City, County on homeless issue

Utah State CapitolA big homeless announcement Friday from the State Capitol:

  • The Salt Lake City Sugarhouse homeless site is out – gone from being SLC Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s big thorn in the side.
  • Salt Lake County will decide by March 30 where a new homeless resource center will be located somewhere outside of Salt Lake City.
  • The current Roads Home 1,500-bed shelter will close by June 30, 2019.
  • Only two homeless centers in Salt Lake City: The High Avenue and 700 South areas. Each will have 200 beds only.

One of those sites will be for single men with single women. The other site will be for single men.

  • The current Midvale family site will become the fourth site in Salt Lake County.

So, there will be two in Salt Lake City, one in Midvale, and one site to be picked elsewhere in Salt Lake County.

  • The Legislature will figure out a formula whereby cities and counties WITHOUT a homeless shelter will get LESS local option sales tax. That money will be reallocated —  less than $10 million across the state annually – to local communities to pay for operations and other needs to the four shelters, or future additional shelters.

That’s a carrot for some other places in the state to step up and offer to site for homeless facilities.

  • The state is finding 300 jail beds outside of Salt Lake County that will be paid to house the “wolves” who prey on the homeless – drug dealers, prostitutes, and pimps.
  • If at any time there are more homeless people than may fit in the 800-odd beds to be in the new four shelters, the state’s Workforce Services Department will hand out temporary housing vouchers to individuals and families to stay in local hotels and motels.

No one will be left on the streets who want a shelter/hotel bed.

  • Funding encouragements will be given to local governments and neighborhoods who step forward and offer to take a shelter now and in the future.

“This is really big,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. Maybe the biggest thing the state has done to help a specific group of needy people in the 10 years he’s been in the Legislature.

He singled out House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and county Mayor Ben McAdams and City Mayor Biskupski, whose dogged work resulted in the “huge” compromises reached Friday.

At the press conference (if a bomb had gone off most of the state and local leaders would be gone, so many were there), Murray Mayor Ted Eyre did not immediately offer to take the fourth, Salt Lake County site, but he spoke several times about how local officials needed to step up and take on the responsibility to help “fellow human beings” in need of help.

Biskupski teared up and had to stop speaking when she spoke about how hard the homeless issue has been.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said he has a bill that will charge cities and counties who don’t have homeless shelters – based on how many folks in their areas become homeless each year – the new fund will be used to pay for all kinds of ongoing impacts for the areas that do have shelters.

Clearly, said Hughes, this has been a huge issue that took many folks to decide how to proceed.

Bills will now flow in the Legislature, which has less than two weeks to go, and money promised previously – along with Eliason’s new sales tax program – will go forward.