The pause on building more homeless shelters in Salt Lake is extended

Mar 23, 2022, 3:40 PM
homeless resource centers...
The Ramada Inn at 1659 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. It has been approved as the site of a 250-bed temporary overflow shelter for homeless people. Photo credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to extend the pause on building new homeless shelters in the city.

Previously, the pause was effective until the end of April. That was enacted by City Mayor Erin Mendenhall in October. Now it will last through at least May 20, 2022. 

No new homeless shelters

When Mendenhall paused building new homeless shelters, zoning laws only allow them in certain parts of the city. Council members say these laws place a bigger burden on those parts of the city. And council members say they need more time to fix this problem.

The decision was made after 40 minutes of public comment from residents. Some agreed that a continued pause was necessary, but others were against the pause, including people who operate homeless shelters.

“Our homeless will remain in urban settings even if homeless service providers do not remain in an urban setting, or if there is a lack of homeless service providers in an urban setting,” said Chris Crosswhite, the executive director of the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake.

Pastor Shawn Clay also told the council that he is against the pause.

“I was homeless myself, so I can speak this firsthand that instead of doing [pausing] this, we need to get help for them,” said Clay. “We need to house them instead of dislocating them.” 

For Councilmember Alejandro Puy, more time will allow a more equitable distribution of all the necessary resources.

“We need to find [an] equitable solution for this issue. And it pains me, that how we are distributing these resource centers and shelters is not fair,” Puy said.

“I still get very angry about … some of the conversations many years ago when a shelter in Sugar House was proposed,” said Puy. “That shelter does not exist these days and it should. I remember the conversations in Draper about a possible shelter, that shelter does not exist,” she said.

“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,” 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.”

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The pause on building more homeless shelters in Salt Lake is extended