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West Valley City • South Salt Lake already holds two jails, two juvenile detention facilities and a sewage treatment plant, but its residents learned Tuesday that the chance for the city to host a large homeless shelter went up this week.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams told South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood that the county had located two more possible sites for the new facility, as the state, county and Salt Lake City seek to house homeless ahead of the planned June 2019 closure of The Road Home shelter downtown, Wood said.
That brings the number of proposed sites in South Salt Lake to four, with three more in West Valley City, Wood said prior to a town hall meeting at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City.
"We've done our fair share," she said while flanked by the city's fire and police officials, who also oppose the proposed sites.
The newest proposals are both near 3300 South and 1000 West in South Salt Lake.
"The fact that more sites are being brought to the table point out that this is a rushed process," Wood said. "We are ready to fight."
The sites being considered are part of a plan to close the shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande, which has 1,100 beds, and open two 200-bed sites in Salt Lake City and a third elsewhere in Salt Lake County.
Hundreds of residents of the two neighboring towns filled the center to talk with each other about their disapproval of the chosen sites, which a state committee will whittle down to one in coming weeks.
Residents from the two municipalities, whose leaders are now working to prevent a homeless resource center housing hundreds of men in their towns, also said they feared for the worst if the center ends up in their backyard.
"Why don't you just fix it right where it's at?" asked 77-year-old West Valley City resident Dennis Fynbo, who claimed at the town hall meeting that the county was attempting to spread out its homeless problem. "They're just spreading it out. That's only good for manure and fertilizer."
Tuesday night's meeting was one of a string of town hall meetings for residents to vent and ask questions about the chosen sites. Residents spoke with each other about their reasons to oppose the sites selected and some asked McAdams questions about the process.
Grisett Contreras, a West Valley City woman who lives near the border with South Salt Lake, said she caught McAdams on his way out of the town hall.
"I asked if [choosing] West Valley City has something to do with so many Hispanic communities," she said, adding that her main goal was to keep the shelter away from children. "It's not that they don't have a right to a place to stay. But it has to be far away from the kids."
Employees with the Department of Workforce Services stood at a table near the entrance, fielding questions from residents who said they feared the problems plaguing the Rio Grande area downtown would be relocated to their towns.
But Dan Powell, a program specialist with the agency, sought to dispel the idea that the new shelter one of three that will open in Salt Lake County in coming years will mimic The Road Home.
"They're not going to have the people lined up out front," said Powell, a former 20-year heroin addict who was homeless before becoming sober 11 years ago.
He said the services that will be provided will be the type that help get people out of homelessness and drug addiction, as they did for him.
The county says the proposed shelter will include sleeping areas with small personal storage areas, on-site case managers to help with legal aid and job counseling, and food services and space for "limited meal preparation" plus consumption of three meals a day.
The shelter would also have an exterior courtyard with seating, smoking area and place for pets.
The county will hold a meeting on March 28 before recommending a site to a state committee involved in the decision.