SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has signed an emergency proclamation to add 95 more beds at homeless shelters. The order came after five unsheltered individuals died in the past week as temperatures plummeted into the teens overnight.
“Every Salt Lake City resident deserves a safe place to sleep at night,” Mendenhall said. “We are working together in a more collaborative and coordinated way than I can remember, and I’m really grateful.”
Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini and South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood are also looking into adding more beds to the Millcreek winter overflow shelter and the Pamela Atkinson Resource Center.
Wayne Niederhauser, Utah’s homeless services coordinator, said there will be a total of 50 more beds in central Salt Lake, 25 in South Salt Lake and another 20 beds in Millcreek to address the “unprecedented demand” for shelter.
“The big problem with the system is we are putting band-aids on it,” Mendenhall said. “This is not the fix. We need permanent housing.”
There was an average of 109 beds available each night in Salt Lake County in December before the order was made, according to the mayor’s office.
Mendenhall added that a majority of people who access homeless services will leave once they receive stable housing, but there is a small group of people who will only enter shelter services when temperatures turn frigid.
“The system is not serving them well enough yet,” she said. “It doesn’t exist until we create permanent, supportive housing with wrap-around services that meet their unique needs.”
On Oct. 3, Mendenhall announced the ban on creating new and permanent homeless shelters for the next six months, saying now is a crucial time for city officials to “pause and chart a new, more balanced path forward” in their plans for how homeless services should operate in the city.
After the 30 days have passed, the Salt Lake City Council will congregate and vote on whether there should be an extension of the emergency proclamation.