SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 17, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is expressing frustration after the Salt Lake City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of an overflow shelter Tuesday evening.
The shelter, which will be located at 1659 W. North Temple, will be open for the next six months.
Mendenhall issued the following statement Wednesday morning:
A safe place to sleep at night is vital for everyone in our community and I strongly believe that hosting emergency shelter is the responsibility of every city in this county, and the state of Utah. But with the temperature dropping, the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness (SLVCEH) has asked Salt Lake City to host an emergency shelter this winter once again, for the third time since the closure of The Road Home.
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 host a temporary shelter than see people with nowhere to go, freezing on our streets.
After unsuccessfully requesting that other cities in the county cooperate to site potential locations, SLCVEH — not the city — identified a site in the North Temple neighborhood and asked the City Council for a temporary land use permit. The fact that the site identified is on our city’s westside is even more egregious, and compounds the inequity these residents and businesses deal with on a daily basis. This is not a location of the city’s choosing, by any measure.
I am frustrated with the disproportionate and largely unsupported efforts Salt Lake City brings to the statewide homelessness crisis. My frustration seems matched by the City Council’s, where the discussion today reflected a waning willingness to continuously host the vast majority of services in this county without the financial support that should accompany that service.
Because of the fundamental human crisis that underpins this request by SLVCEH and no alternative for substantial winter shelter, I commend the Salt Lake City Council for their swift work on this. This action will save lives. But I know that we all agree that residents and businesses in Salt Lake City deserve a more balanced path forward.
As I’ve laid out before, that path needs to address several items, including (1) emergency shelter beds that are distributed among other cities in the county, not only in Salt Lake City; and (2) dependable, adequate state funding for public safety costs in Salt Lake City, similar to what other cities receive for hosting overnight homeless services. City taxpayers should not solely bear the public safety costs of this statewide crisis.
It’s encouraging that the coalition has located other emergency beds outside of the city for this winter, and that Salt Lake City has been recommended to receive more mitigation funding from the state than in all years past, combined.
But I am determined to ensure that the heart and generosity continually shown by Salt Lake City residents and businesses is not taken for granted, and that our city is better respected with fair partnership and critical support.