SLC Council approves emergency overflow homeless shelter, despite frustrations

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City Council is taking action to make sure the homeless population has a warm place to go this winter.

During its Tuesday evening meeting, the Salt Lake City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of an overflow shelter, which will be located at 1659 West North Temple. The shelter will be open for the next six months.

Following the council’s vote, Mayor Erin Mendenhall released a statement commending the council for their vote but expressing her frustration about the city seeming to take the brunt of caring for the transient population in Salt Lake County. According to the mayor, the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness had asked for help from other cities in the county, with no luck.

After those unsuccessful requests, SLVCEH identified a site in the North Temple neighborhood and asked the Salt Lake City Council for a temporary land use permit.

“The fact that the site identified is on our City’s Westside is even more egregious, and compounds the inequity these residents and businesses deal with on a daily basis. This is not a location of the City’s choosing, by any measure,” Mayor Mendenhall says. While she agrees having a safe place to stay is crucial, Mayor Mendenhall is unhappy Salt Lake City is stepping up again.

When I issued the six-month pause on the creation of new permanent shelters within the City, I intentionally left the door open for temporary overflow facilities because, despite the fact that Salt Lake City already hosts far more than its fair share of homeless services, I believe that our City’s residents would rather host a temporary shelter than see people with nowhere to go, freezing on our streets. 

I am frustrated with the disproportionate and largely unsupported efforts Salt Lake City brings to the statewide homelessness crisis. My frustration seems matched by the City Council’s, where the discussion today reflected a waning willingness to continuously host the vast majority of services in this county without the financial support that should accompany that service.

As I’ve laid out before, that path needs to address several items, including (1) emergency shelter beds that are distributed among other cities in the county, not only in Salt Lake City; and (2) dependable, adequate state funding for public safety costs in Salt Lake City, similar to what other cities receive for hosting overnight homeless services. City taxpayers should not solely bear the public safety costs of this statewide crisis.  

It’s encouraging that the Coalition has located other emergency beds outside of the City for this winter and that Salt Lake City has been recommended to receive more mitigation funding from the state than in all years past, combined. 

But I am determined to ensure that the heart and generosity continually shown by Salt Lake City residents and businesses is not taken for granted, and that our City is better respected with fair partnership and critical support.

Unsheltered advocates recently spoke with ABC4 about the staffing shortages many shelters are seeing.

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