Hughes says he’s deeply disappointed by ‘mob’ atmosphere at Draper homeless shelter meeting

Greg HughesUtah House Speaker Greg Hughes tells UtahPolicy Daily that he’s okay with Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams demanding that the Legislature pass a funding bill to financially help cities and counties who take a homeless center.

“We spoke before (McAdams went public with that demand), and I’m sure the next Legislature will do it,” Hughes said in an interview Monday afternoon.

Hughes also said he believes, and hopes, that already-allocated state monies will be ample for the state and county to buy residential properties near the McAdams’-picked homeless center site on 33rd South.

And Hughes, speaking for the first time about last week’s disastrous Draper public hearing on two possible locations in that city, said he was deeply disappointed about the “mob” atmosphere that met McAdams and Draper Mayor Troy Walker.

“I’ll tell you, we need some spiritual leadership” on the homeless issue, or finding any good solutions will not be easy, or maybe possible, said Hughes, R-Draper.

Rep. Steve Eliason’s HB452 failed to get out of a House committee toward the end of the 2017 session. The bill would have taken a small bit of local option sales tax from every county in the state and given it to the cities or unincorporated counties that take a new homeless center.

Hughes said: “That will pass next (general) session” – a promise the speaker seems ready to make happen.

McAdams said not a spade of dirt will be moved on the 33rd South site without the promise of such financial help to homeless-sited cities.

South Salt Lake City officials vow to keep fighting against McAdams’ pick in their small city.

Hughes said he didn’t want the issue on a summer special session – already agreed to by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert – because that site won’t need the money any sooner than 2018.

McAdams met with several nearby property owners before making his 10th West 33rd South location decision last Friday, and he told them he hoped their properties could be bought by the government if they desired to sell and didn’t want to live near the new homeless center.

Hughes said Monday he hopes that the approximately $3 million the state has promised to build/remodel each of the new four center properties would allow for the purchase of additional land at 33rd South.

The overall operation of that site would be best if the private residences could be included, he said.

Speaking about the Draper public meeting – where not only Walker and McAdams were booed, but also a homeless man who tried to ask for patience and understanding – Hughes said it might have been “divine intervention” that he was out of town that Wednesday night and couldn’t attend.

Known for his heated temper – which on occasion has gotten the best of him – Hughes said he wouldn’t “have sat there” and taken the abuse that Walker and McAdams did.

Hughes said he did watch a video of the meeting and was disappointed that those 1,000 or so in attendance wouldn’t listen to Walker’s and McAdams’ explanation: That the Draper center would have been for women and children only.

There are homeless women and moms who don’t feel safe staying at SLC’s downtown Road Home shelter. But given a rather remote location – as either of the Draper sites would be – could be helped temporarily there.

It has not yet been decided exactly which of the four sites – listed below – will house which homeless populations.

But in any case, community policing will be a big part of the comprehensive homeless program – which will include 300 new jail beds for offenders, rehabilitation and work-training programs, transitional housing and more.

“We can’t solve this homeless problem no matter how much the state throws at it,” said Hughes, who has made helping the homeless a personal crusade.

“We need some spiritual leadership with this challenge. We have to reach out a helping hand, or this whole homeless crisis will take us over.

“And it could end in a very bad way” for any number of Utah communities.

The four sites selected will now move to design stages, with construction starting soon after that.

•      Two in Salt Lake City: 131 E. 700 South (the current Deseret Industries site), and 275 High Ave.

•      One in the current Midvale center, 529 W. 7300 South.

•      And the new McAdams site, 10th West and 33rd South.