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Emergency winter homeless shelter announced for Salt Lake City

Nov 17, 2021, 7:11 AM | Updated: 1:35 pm
A new report from ACLU criticizes police in Salt Lake City for their handling of people experiencin...
A new report from ACLU criticizes police in Salt Lake City for their handling of people experiencing homelessness (Scott Winterton, Deseret News).
(Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City leaders approved a new emergency winter homeless shelter, while also expressing frustration over the process, Tuesday night. 

“A safe place to sleep at night is vital to everyone in our community,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a statement released Tuesday about the current status of temporary shelters in the city. 

 

Previous freeze on permanent shelters

In October, Mendenhall placed a six-month moratorium on applications for new permanent homeless shelters. This moratorium did not apply to temporary shelters. Mendenhall stated the moratorium was part of an effort to review the zoning laws that allow for shelters in the first place. 

On the mayor’s office website about this moratorium said the following: 

“Salt Lake City, and more specifically, certain districts in the City, bear a higher responsibility than other municipalities in the State to provide shelter and services to the State’s homeless population, and now is a crucial time for us to pause and chart a new, more balanced path forward in our plans for how those services take shape within the City,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “By taking this step my goal is to help ensure that as a City we are more prescriptive in the process that would allow any new permanent shelters to operate within Salt Lake City.” 

“When I issued the six-month pause on the creation of new permanent shelters within the City, I intentionally left the door open for temporary overflow facilities because, despite the fact that Salt Lake City already hosts far more than its fair share of homeless services, I believe that our City’s residents would rather hose a temporary shelter than see people with nowhere to go, freezing on our streets,” said Mendenhall.  

Read More: Planning commission approves rezoning amendment for homeless tiny home village

Struggles with zoning and support

The Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homeless submitted the request for the Ramada located at 1659 W. North Temple to become the new temporary or overflow shelter. The plan is to set up 250 beds for an emergency overflow shelter as the temperatures start to drop. 

The council did not happily vote to approve this request. Many councilmembers voiced their displeasure with their city being repeatedly burdened with the task of putting roofs over the heads of Utah’s unsheltered population. 

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall was invited to attend the virtual meeting and was given an opportunity to share her thoughts. 

“I’m frustrated with how disproportionately, and largely unsupported, the efforts of our city are to bring relief to this statewide homelessness crisis,” the mayor said. 

Mendenhall said she feels a mutual waning of willingness to do the heavy lifting while other cities in Salt Lake County refuse to step up. 

“I know that we all agree that our residents and our businesses in the city deserve a more balanced path forward,” she said. 

Looking ahead

Mendenhall described the current emergency shelter plan as a temporary fix, and even a helpful one. However, she also expressed that “we all agree that residents and businesses in Salt Lake City deserve a more balanced path forward.”

That balanced path, according to the mayor, would include several key elements. Two major components would be emergency shelter beds in communities other than Salt Lake City, and dependable state funding for public safety costs in Salt Lake. 

Read More: Cold weather prompts donation requests for homeless population

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Emergency winter homeless shelter announced for Salt Lake City