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The executive director of the Crossroads Urban Center has pulled his organization out of the Pioneer Park Coalition, saying the small executive committee that makes the decisions is not representative of the coalition's broader membership.
In a letter Wednesday to the Pioneer Park Coalition a nonprofit group of businesses, community members and homeless service providers Glenn Bailey said the coalition has an unstated agenda of moving the homeless out of the Rio Grande neighborhood surrounding the park.
"While you hold general membership meetings, my observation is that the real decision-making is done exclusively by the executive board," Bailey said. "The Pioneer Park Coalition does not function as a true coalition because the membership has no role in selecting the executive board members. In effect, the executive board is the Pioneer Park Coalition and the membership plays an advisory role at best."
The coalition's chairman, Scott Howell, said the group wants to improve the area but is not set on moving the homeless population, unless community leaders, including service providers, prefer it.
Howell added that everyone is welcome to join the coalition and Bailey was free to resign.
"The Pioneer Park Coalition continues to have the objective of creating opportunity, responsibility and security for all our [homeless] brothers and sisters who find themselves in this challenging situation," Howell said.
Among other things, Bailey pointed to the Pioneer Park Coalition's presentation at the Legislature last week that sought funding for a housing project. Coalition members identified two west-side Salt Lake City sites as possible locations for an apartment project that is distinct from an emergency shelter.
"Permanently supportive housing for homeless people is something we (Crossroads Urban Center) support very much, but having our name on a proposal we've never seen and had no input in creating is not acceptable," Bailey said. "Listing potential sites without consulting with community leaders on the west side is something we never would have supported."
In a news release Friday, Mayor Ralph Becker and Councilman James Rogers complained that the sites identified in the legislative hearing were not part of a public process and they could not support those locations. Rogers represents the west side's District 1, which encompasses those sites.
Howell on Monday called the flap a "misunderstanding."
But in his letter, Bailey said: "I believe our visions for the community diverge on the future of homeless service providers in the neighborhood. We believe that relocation of providers and the people they serve is an unstated goal of Pioneer Park Coalition. We can't be a part of that."
For his part, Howell pledged the coalition would work with Mayor Ralph Becker's commission on homeless service providers to find solutions to challenges faced by the homeless.
"We do want to be part of that process as participants on the mayor's task force."