Leaders speak out on SSL homeless center delay: ‘$13M just doesn’t come up at the end of a project’

Local News

SOUTH SALT LAKE (ABC4 News) – Wednesday, August 14th will be the two-year mark of the launch of Operation Rio Grande.

It’s a multi-agency effort to deal with homelessness in the Rio Grande area of downtown Salt Lake City and the county, but a multi-million dollar setback is stalling its completion specifically the construction of the Homeless Resource Center in South Salt Lake.

“$13 million just doesn’t come up at the end of a project,” said David Kelly, Vice-Chair of the Pioneer Park Coalition.

That’s the price tag that needs to be paid to complete the facility.

It was scheduled to open in June. It’s now slated for September.

ABC4 visited the site on Friday. Due to road construction, we weren’t able to get to it.

“These shortfalls have been coming,” said Kelly. “Why wasn’t the public made aware of them sooner?”

As part of the Pioneer Park Coalition, a group of more than 1,000 members including business owners, residents, and community members, Kelly says it wasn’t until late June when they were alerted.

He says he doesn’t know what’s behind the delays and shortfalls. Kelly does, however, have questions about how South Salt Lake is spending its portion of sales tax funds it’s receiving from the state.

“Cities who didn’t have resource centers located within their boundaries part of their sales tax would be withheld and given to cities that did have resource centers or homeless center services,” said Kelly.

Kelly provided ABC4 with numbers that show homelessness funding granted directly to the city of South Salt Lake for the fiscal years 2017 to 2020 is from the Homelessness Shelter Cities Mitigation Restricted Account.

For 2019, South Salt Lake received $1.4 million. For 2020, it’s anticipated to receive $2.7 million.

“The state is already involved in that,” said Kelly. “The state is already paying for that. South Salt Lake City’s Mayor Wood, she’s on the shelter of the homeless board. So she knows those funds are coming. Then to say we want to make sure that if those funds don’t happen Shelter of the Homeless is going to pay for those costs.”

Those costs include having South Salt Lake reimbursed for the use of any police, fire or paramedics related to the resource center.

ABC4 reached out multiple times to Mayor Cherie Wood’s Office in the past week.

We directly asked about the portion of sales tax South Salt Lake is receiving from other cities in the valley in connection to Operation Rio Grande.

We were told in an email today that it was “impossible to answer.”

ABC4 did, however, receive a statement from Mayor Wood on August 1st. This is the statement in its entirety:

“I am disappointed in the construction delays of the 1000 West Homeless Resource Center due to financial challenges of Shelter the Homeless. South Salt Lake is committed to seeing the facility operational and will do what we can to ensure it opens as scheduled. We are ready, willing and able to issue a Certificate of Occupancy as soon as construction is complete. As a City, we are supportive of the new model and believe in Shelter the Homeless and their desire to create successful resource centers. I have faith that the 1000 West Homeless Resource Center will be a well managed, safe place of healing for 300 men in our community in desperate need of stability. This is a hope I believe we all share and an outcome we can all be proud of.”

For this report, ABC4 also reached out to Salt Lake County Mayor Jennie Wilson. We were told she is out of the office this week.

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