SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Tonight, state lawmakers were expected to vote on a controversial proposal to turn a detox facility in Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood into an overflow homeless shelter.
But that didn’t happen.
Many people were under the false impression that the Executive Appropriations Committee needed to vote on the proposal before state funds were used.
However, according to the state statute, the EAC can make recommendations on the proposal, but really it comes down to city rules.
“When we first voted for operation Rio Grande I was never in support of operation Rio Grande because I was concerned that we were going to have the situation that we have today,” Representative Angela Romero says.
Back in 2020, the state sold the Rio Grande homeless shelter land.
“Half was going to pay loan to build a shelter in South Salt Lake which we did, and the rest which is up to three million dollars, is used to address overflow needs of homelessness issues and that’s what they presented,” Utah Senator Luz Escamilla says.
But many argue the money isn’t being used like it was originally promised.
“The intent was always no more facilities in Salt Lake City. We have done enough and we have been disproportionally affected as a city when it comes to addressing this issue…it’s not fair,” Sen. Escamilla tells ABC4.
“Why aren’t there other parts of the county that are being explored when it comes to tackling this issue? Why is it within a certain part of the city that has to carry these issues for the entire state of Utah? I think that’s ridiculous,” Rep. Romero says.
Many feel the lack of community outreach on the proposal is negatively impacting the Ballpark neighborhood.
“I feel really disrespected and so do the people I represent. Again, none of us are against trying to help people and solve the issue of homelessness but in order to get full community support, you have to have these conversations,” Rep. Romero says.
Others believe adding another homeless resource center in the area will only cause more issues.
“Placing this new resource center right in the middle of three other most geographically compact resource centers would really be creating the same condition that existed in the Rio Grande area,” City Council Member Darin Mano said.
However, the EAC didn’t make any recommendations during Tuesday’s meeting.
In the meantime, Senate Democrats are asking for transparency and a process where more public comment is involved.
“Truly it’s now in the hands of the city, as this new facility will develop and there’s certain processes within the city that will have to happen,” Sen. Escamilla says.
ABC4 reached out to Mayor Mendenhall’s office to see what will happen next since the Mayor has publicly voiced her opposition to this specific site.
Her office released this statement to ABC4 News below.
“Currently this is a potential real estate transaction between two private entities and does not yet include the City. If the buyer wanted to use it for overflow or emergency shelter, they would need to go through the conditional use permitting process. We’re hopeful that with more resources and homeless services more balanced among sister jurisdictions, we could be a partner on future expanded services for the unsheltered in Salt Lake City.”