SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Several mayors across Salt Lake County submitted their winter response plan to help shelter and care for those who are experiencing homelessness during the upcoming winter months.
The mayors did not go into the specifics of the plan that was submitted on Tuesday, saying there were specifics that needed to be worked out. Elected officials did reveal that the plan included 600 overflow beds, 200 “Code Blue” beds, additional shelters as necessary, and more permanent solutions, should the funding be made available.
The plan also would see shelters open for 24 hours as opposed to a 12-hour window from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Under Code Blue situations – a weather condition of 15 degrees or below – the county would utilize a volunteer program and community outreach to expedite intake to the shelters.
Millcreek City Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said this year’s plan is far more robust than last year’s in terms of number of beds and facilities, though he stressed that submitting the plan is not cause for a “victory lap.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Silvestrini. “We particularly have a lot of work to do in finding the funding that’s necessary to implement this plan.”
Silvestrini said part of the reason why the elected officials were being so tightlipped on the details of the plan was because they did not to over-promise and under-deliver. Work is still being done to secure real property and funding. Silvestrini said it’s also possible the state denies the plan that was submitted.
“This is a really hard thing for us to do. I know everybody wants to know the details but sometimes we have to line up the real property aspects and do that in a confidential way,” explained Silvestrini. “The funding is kind of the same way.”
Despite the complications, the mayors in attendance expressed optimism about their proposed winter response plan. They said that if everything goes according to plan, Salt Lake County will have a better program than it did over the 2022/23 winter.
“The fact that we are standing here at the beginning of August with a plan that has now been submitted to the State of Utah is evidence of that partnership of what collaboration can look like,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “It’s also reflective of the fact that this is an evolving situation. The funding from the legislature happened before our most recent point-in-time count data came out.”
Now the plan has been submitted, it will go before the State of Utah for review for approval. The state has 15 days to approve the plan, though State Homeless Coordinator Wayne Niederhauser said their review will be completed by Aug. 10.
This is the earliest Salt Lake County has ever submitted its winter response plan, a response to a severe winter that led to several deaths in Salt Lake City.
“Our goal is to implement our plan by late October so we are ready to meet the needs when winter arrives,” said Salt Lake County Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives Jean Hill.
More details about the Salt Lake County winter response plan is set to be released once it is approved by the state.
If the state does not approve the plan, Niedehouse said the state has preemptive abilities and powers to take over the plan but he said that is not their intent.
“The state will be part of the execution of the plan,” said Niederhauser. “We are going to take the plan we’ve been given and if we have to enhance it in some way, we are going to work with cities and the county to implement it.”