SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On Monday, Salt Lake City announced in a press release that Mayor Erin Mendenhall paused the creation of new permanent homeless shelters in the city for six months. This, however, will not prohibit the city from considering a potential temporary shelter location if a provider proposes a site in a zone that currently permits homeless shelters.

“Now is a crucial time for us to pause and chart a new, more balanced path forward in our plans for how those services take shape within the city,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “By taking this step, my goal is to help ensure that as a city, we are more prescriptive in the process that would allow any new permanent shelters to operate within Salt Lake City.” 

City officials say they will look at the conditions under which they can approve conditional use permits for shelters going forward. They will also consider whether or not to distinguish between temporary and permanent shelters in the city land use processes.

The city says this comes after the Mayor’s support of a report from the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness that calls for an additional 300 emergency shelter beds. The Mayor also requested additional system-wide resources to address homelessness and mitigate the impacts that homelessness has on neighborhoods and businesses in SLC.

This move by the Mayor’s Office, which is arguably the most progressive group on the issue of homelessness in the city’s history, highlights the fact that the topic of homelessness is extremely nuanced.

Wayne Niederhauser, former state senator and the current homelessness service coordinator for the State of Utah joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen for an IN FOCUS discussion. He shared what he’s learned during the last six months in his new position, what he thinks about the role SLC plays in the discussion about homelessness versus other cities, how he envisions the state’s role in this conversation, the short and long-term plays they’re considering, and whether he’s satisfied with funding.

Wendy Garvin, executive director of Unsheltered Utah and Carl Moore, co-founder of Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue and Organizing Support (PANDOS) shared their thoughts from an advocate’s perspective.

They talked about how they view Niederhauser’s new role, how they coordinate with all of the various voices that are at the table when it comes to Utah’s unsheltered population, the nuances they’ve faced when looking at solutions, what everyone agrees on as a starting point, the challenges of funding, the benefits and challenges of the shelter system, the viewpoint on homelessness from a cultural perspective, and what they think is the main issue that needs to be addressed.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Niederhauser, Garvin, and Moore, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.