Homeless shelter proposal in Salt Lake City sparks controversy

Local News
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A proposal to turn the detox center in Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood into an overflow homeless shelter is sparking controversy.  

The detox center is located at 252 West Brooklyn Avenue and is owned by Volunteers of America Utah. While state lawmakers consider this three-million-dollar purchase, many residents are outraged claiming they’ve been left in the dark.  

Mayor Erin Mendenhall is joining those who are against this proposal. She withdrew her support for using state funds to help house the homeless there on Thursday.

“It is upsetting you know. I don’t want to move, I don’t want to sell my house…I love my house, I love my neighborhood but how can we stay here when these things are happening… you just can’t,” Ballpark Resident Shelley Bodily says.

Shelley has been a resident in the Ballpark community for nearly twenty years. However, with another homeless shelter possibly coming to her neighborhood, she feels like she may have no other choice but to leave.

“We talk about it with our kids and they really…they identify with the ballpark. They love it here, they go to school here, and we go to other places in the city and they talk about the good things about the ballpark,” Bodily shares.

She is frustrated with the lack of communication over plans to potentially house another 80 to 100 adult transients by next year.

“I feel very lucky that I was even able to pick up the article in the newspaper otherwise I wouldn’t have known,” Bodily explains.

Many residents are frustrated claiming there’s been no community outreach for this proposal. Several residents found out through their local paper two weeks ago, including Ballpark Community Council Chair Amy J Hawkins.

The Utah Homelessness Council approved the proposal during a meeting on August 25.

“We were shocked, we were furious, and we felt that it was a huge mistake for the folks that didn’t do their due diligence,” Ballpark Community Council Chair Amy J Hawkins states.

That’s why the Ballpark Community Council and Central 9th Community Council held a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday to inform the community of what’s next. However, Volunteers of America Utah wasn’t in attendance.  

“They’re available to present next month, but unfortunately, that would be after this vote happens,” Hawkins says.  

For the purchase to go through, it will need enough votes from the Legislative Appropriations Committee next Tuesday.

“It is not entirely clear why things need to happen as rapidly as they are,” Hawkins explains.

Mayor Mendenhall argues that adding more beds at the Brooklyn Avenue Building will only widen the imbalance of Salt Lake City’s capacity compared to the state

“It is simply untenable to ask this city to support two more emergency shelters on top of the 853 beds we already support,” Mendenhall states.       

Many Ballpark residents agree with Mendenhall citing two other homeless resource centers nearby.  

“Our neighborhood already is home to two homeless resource centers. We host the Gail Miller Resource Center which is a mixed gender center, and we already host the youth homeless shelter which is on 900 South and 400 West,” Hawkins says.  

“We already have a lot in our backyard and we’re doing more than our fair share. It’s time for other places in the city or other cities in the county to step up and help us… we can’t do it all,” business owner Jesse Hulse tells ABC4.           

Some community members argue that this new shelter would threaten the safety of residents.

“To bring in another shelter…you know one sort of follows the other. It’s not a crime to be homeless but a lot of crime follows the homeless population,” Bodily says.

“On a day-to-day basis we’re picking up needles, picking up feces, have vandalism, have people yelling at us and threatening us,” Hulse states.

“It’s not great for that population to be located less than two blocks from a youth homeless resource center. It’s not great for that population to be located less than two blocks from Spy Hop — the new youth media arts center,” Hawkins explains.  

There are hundreds of affordable housing units planned for a building across the street from the Detox Center. Developer George Hauser said if this proposal goes through, he will most likely have to bump up the prices since it will be harder to find tenants.  

ABC4 News reached out to Volunteers of America Utah for comment but hasn’t heard back.

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