We made meaningful impact this year on Salt Lake City’s longtime homelessness crisis. Our efforts are guided by compassion and common sense, and our end goal is to put people who experience homelessness on a path to permanent housing.
We began in January by securing $27 million in funding for new homeless resource centers and related services from the Utah Legislature. In late October, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County collaborated on a criminal justice initiative to clean up persistent crime and violence in the city’s Rio Grande neighborhood. “Operation Diversion’s goal was to separate the truly homeless people in the area from the criminal element – particularly drug dealers – who take advantage of those who need help. Police officers apprehended crime suspects, and brought them to a temporary diversion center where they were offered a chance to enter immediate treatment or go to jail.The operations continued for several weeks.
Our follow-up in the Rio Grande district has been positive, with residents and business owners noting fewer crowds loitering and less drug activity in the area.
We end the year with the selection of four sites for new homeless resource centers and plans for a new and holistic approach focused on housing and hope.
These centers will be nothing like the current shelter model we have depended on for 30-plus years. For example:
- Each facility will be capped at 150 residents – much more manageable than the current 900 plus individuals who are supported by the Road Home Shelter.
- Treatment for mental illness and substance addiction, as well as job skills training, will be on site, increasing chances of long-term sobriety and success.
- Long lines outside the buildings will be eliminated, as new centers will be designed to accommodate indoor queuing.
- The centers will be designed with security in mind, and to architecturally fit within existing neighborhoods.
- Access to freeways at the four sites will be severely curtailed, cutting criminal activity. Police patrols and security will be increased.
Our city staff is dedicated to a model that supports not just a bed and a shelter, but a true move toward housing and hope for people experiencing homelessness. Our partners in this work include Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and county staff, non-profit service providers, and advocates for the homeless. In early 2017, we will host public meetings to encourage community input for homeless center design.
For up-to-date information, please visit Not Afraid To Help on the SLC Gov website.