House Majority Whip Francis Gibson has introduced his homeless bill, which would allocate $10 million in state aid to the growing problem in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas.
Gibson, R-Mapleton, and House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, have been saying for months that they want the state to provide some money in an effort to:
Move some of the homeless shelters from Salt Lake City’s westside.
Open a few shelters/clinics in areas along the Wasatch Front to better serve the homeless population, including safe havens for homeless women and families with children.
Provide enhanced services to make homelessness a temporary situation for the individuals and families in those trying situations.
Gibson’s bill would take $7 million in one-time state revenue surpluses and $3 million in ongoing tax revenue, put the money into a special homeless restricted account and allow the state Department of Workforce Services to tap into the account as needed.
A special Salt Lake City group to help the homeless and a different Salt Lake County homeless commission made joint recommendations last fall and decided to ask the state for upwards of $27 million in help.
But the exact plans/goals of the endeavor are not finalized, so GOP state leaders, including Gov. Gary Herbert, decided not to find all of the money this general session.
Instead, the state will “phase in” its help over several years.
Hughes told UtahPolicy several months ago that helping the homeless would be one of his top priorities this session.
A homeless committee is created in Gibson’s HB436, which will include Salt Lake City’s new Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, both Democrats, with the executive directors of state corrections, health and human services.
The group will hand out “one-time” grants to qualifying entities, which likely will help some current homeless providers to rebuild, or build, new shelters and clinics and provide program and medical assistance to the homeless.
Most of the homeless shelters are now located just south of the Gateway Center, an aging and struggling retail/entertainment outdoor mall on Salt Lake City’s westside near the home of the Jazz.
Getting at least some of the homeless population away from Gateway is considered critical to re-energizing that area.
The drug-dealing hub of Salt Lake – Pioneer Park – near the current shelters is also a blight on the city, and despite enhanced police presence has not been rehabilitated like city leaders wish.