This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Salt Lake City has announced the four new homeless resource expansion centers. Unfortunately, it appears that the potential 600 beds at the new shelters does not provide plans to reduce the number of homeless in Salt Lake City. The announcement also included the news that the executive board of the Road Home has agreed to close the Road Home when the other shelters are opened.
The city and officials involved in this effort claim that the sites included public input, that neighborhoods were respected and that they are "very happy with the process." But if you ask the residents and businesses around the expansion shelters, they say that their neighborhoods will be destroyed, their projects will be impacted and the homeless will include criminals.
The biggest impact is the area around the 700 East S-line station (653 E. Simpson Ave) shelter which is next to quiet single-family home neighborhoods on Green Street and 500 East.
The 275 West High Ave. location is next to the 300 West shopping area which includes Granato's, fast food restaurants and Walmart. Walmart is having issues with a lot of shoplifting by the homeless and the crime at that Walmart requires the equivalent of two full time SLCPD officers. Due to the lack of reasonable jail space, shoplifters are not taken to jail. Until there is a plan for solving the crime in the area, the High Avenue site will negatively impact the neighborhood.
The 648 W. 100 South site is near the new Centro Civico Mexicano project and the Complex music venue. It will require homeless to continue to walk the sidewalks to the Weigand and St. Vincent DePaul Centers and the Fourth Street Clinic. The goal should be to remove the homeless from walking the streets in the area and not encourage them to continue walking in the area. The biggest impact, if the homeless continue to walk the streets in that area, will be the discouragement of billions of potential construction projects in the area.
The Deseret Industries building at 131 E. 700 S. also impacts 200 East residents, and it will impact the new projects going in on State Street near 700 South. The homeless in that area will also have to walk the adjacent neighborhoods to get to grocery stores.
During the first year of this process of finding solutions to the homeless issues, the city and Homeless Commission stated that public engagement in the process is important for the success of the eventual plan. But in this process, the public input has been relegated to advice without any influence on the decisions. When the city first had hearings on the sites, public safety was not even on the table. At each of the meetings, the public insisted that public safety should be the most important goal. But there are still no plans to remove the criminal element and the hundreds of drug dealers from the homeless population.
The biggest concern is that we have to wait for over three years or longer (just in time for another Salt Lake City mayor campaign) to see if the plans will work. In the meantime, hundreds of homeless will die on the streets. As of Dec. 13, 89 homeless people have died this year, and 49 of those were not in housing. (Five were veterans, and the average age was 49).
The Road Home serves more than a thousand each night, and it is unrealistic that 600 new shelter beds can replace more than 1,000 (plus many who camp out in the city). Without a plan to remove the criminal elements embedded in the homeless and get agreement from the adjacent neighborhoods and homeless service providers, the plans become even more unrealistic. The hope that the four new homeless shelters will solve the homeless issues in Salt Lake City seems to be "magical thinking" (in the words of a homeless service provider). Salt Lake City citizens should demand more.
George Chapman is a former candidate for mayor.