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The Pioneer Park Coalition's $1 million request for homeless housing is still on track at the state Legislature but less so among organizations the coalition purports to represent.
Homeless-services providers continue to air frustrations stemming from a legislative-funding initiative pushed by coalition leaders for a housing project that lists supporters who say they did not authorize the use of their names.
Pioneer Park Coalition leader Scott Howell said he is "flabbergasted" that homeless-services providers would raise a ruckus over such a funding request.
Nonetheless, Catholic Community Services of Utah (CCS), the Fourth Street Clinic and the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake all said they had no knowledge their names were used even though they are listed as supporters in the coalition's request to the Legislature.
CCS will remain with the Pioneer Park Coalition but warned that it would leave the group if its executive committee is not more forthright with members.
The concerns raised follow the resignation of two homeless-services providers from the Pioneer Park Coalition last week.
Two government agencies also said they should not have been identified as supporters of the proposal. A spokesman for the Salt Lake City RDA said it was not a coalition member and a spokesman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services said it had no official position on the matter.
The Pioneer Park Coalition is made up of more than 200 members from the public and private sectors, according to its organizers. Its stated goal is to improve the area around the park for residents, businesses and the homeless community. The coalition is spearheaded by an executive committee made up of business interests and property owners.
In a statement to The Tribune, CCS officials said the Pioneer Park Coalition's executive committee needed to be more collaborative.
"We feel that the coalition's recent actions with the state Legislature, while noble in seeking funding to increase low-income housing but acting outside the collaborative efforts of the city, businesses and providers, is unacceptable and will not achieve a unified outcome," the statement said. "If the Coalition continues to make decisions or act without consulting or receiving consent from all parties involved, CCS will have no choice but to withdraw our support of the coalition."
Members of the coalition's executive committee, however, chalk up the complaints to a misunderstanding.
Part of the confusion, according to the coalition's Howell, is that two west-side Salt Lake City addresses were listed as possible sites for the proposed housing project. Howell said those sites are no longer under consideration.
He also explained that anyone who attends coalition meetings is considered a member unless otherwise stated. They are free to resign, he said.
Beyond that, Howell said that any state funds allocated to the coalition would move through the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund. That, he said, would ensure a housing project could only be built in a location with community support.
"We are flabbergasted that service providers, after having requested permanent supportive housing as a priority, would not want to be part of a funding request from the governor's budget for $1 million for housing for our homeless brothers and sisters," Howell said. "If they don't want to be a part of that, what do they really want?"
A spokesman for the Rescue Mission, listed as a supporter of the proposal, said the mission is not a member of the coalition, although it is interested in working with the group and supports new housing for the homeless.
Chris Croswhite, the executive director of the mission, said he knew the coalition was seeking funding for housing. But, he added, his organization neither supports nor opposes it, because the Rescue Mission does not accept funding from government agencies.
"We did not lend our name to the proposal," he said. "But we are an interested party in finding solutions for homelessness.
Communication between the coalition's executive committee and its members and others in the community needs to be improved, said Laura Michalski, CEO of the Fourth Street Clinic.
Michalski said her organization favors new housing projects, too. But she was not aware the coalition was using the Fourth Street Clinic's name as a sponsor of the legislative-appropriation proposal.
"We were never asked and we were never engaged," she said. "We were disappointed with that."
If membership is based on attending meetings, then the clinic is a member, she said.
Despite such recent criticisms, the Legislature seems to favor the appropriation at this point.
In a letter to Mayor Ralph Becker dated Feb. 25, state Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who is Senate chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, commended the coalition's efforts to build new low-income housing.
"We applaud the Pioneer Park Coalition for their efforts to bring together so many 'interested parties' to work so diligently on behalf of the homeless population."