GOVERNMENT

Auditors say homeless resource centers are safer than before, but drugs still finding their way inside

May 17, 2021, 7:38 PM
The men's homeless resource center in South Salt Lake, as seen in October 2019. File photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – Legislative auditors are giving high praise to homeless resource centers in Salt Lake City saying conditions are much safer now than a few years ago.  However, there are ways they can improve their efforts to keep drugs and weapons out. 

Auditors say the changes made within the shelters have led to noticeable improvements.  Their report shows The Road Home and Shelter have adopted new policies that have made the residents safer, and improved screening process that have prevented a lot of contraband items from getting inside.

Utah Legislative Deputy Auditor General Brian Dean says, “We see an improvement of the security, the cleanliness and the safety within the shelters.”

This audit was part of a follow-up from their audit in 2018, which Dean says raised a lot of questions about safety and security.

“We visited and repeated the same test that we ran in 2018.  Our audit team was there at all different hours and different days.  We were there in the middle of the night,” he says.

Despite all the improvements, Dean says there are ways the shelters can do better.  For instance, they recommend  Shelter The Homeless consider using K9 units to sniff out drugs, plus center operators should reconsider their current staffing levels.

Also, Dean says center operators need to provide workers with better training on what to do if someone breaks the rules.  Currently, there are specific guidelines that would evict residents if they’re caught with drugs, although operators are allowed to use their discretion before evicting someone.  Dean believes this discretion is making their punishments inconsistent.

“We see that discretion is ‘the rule’ more than ‘the exception,’” Dean says.

However, Dean understands it would be nearly impossible to completely rid the centers of drugs, considering so many of Utah’s homeless have problems with addiction.

She said, “Over the last five years, 61 percent of the people have received drug charges or treatment for drug addiction or mental illness.  Thirty-two percent of them had been convicted of a felony offense.”

 

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Auditors say homeless resource centers are safer than before, but drugs still finding their way inside