SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A new bill proposing the date for the selection of the final homeless resource center in Salt Lake County passed unanimously through committee Monday morning.
House Bill 441 would not only set the deadline for the final center but would also allocate about 20-million dollars for the construction of all three centers.
The original plan was to have four homeless resource centers throughout Salt Lake City. That led to public outcry specifically over the Simpson Ave. location in Sugarhouse. That site was later removed from the list.
One of the shelters will house families and the second will house single men and women in separate areas. The third location would be somewhere in the county, but it is unknown what subpopulation(s) of the homeless community would be in that center.
The Salt Lake County and City Mayor’s both were present at the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Standing Committee this morning to speak in favor of the bill. They, along with the bill’s sponsor Rep. Francis Gibson (R), agreed this bill went in the right direction to end the homeless problem.
“This bill acknowledges that not just one city can manage or tackle this issue in our state,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski (D).
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) added, “part of our model is to divert people from shelter wherever possible and to ensure stay-in-shelter is as brief as possible and non-recurrent and that’s what this bill is about today.”
McAdams and Biskupski say this bill acknowledges that not one city can manage or tackle the responsibility alone. Calling it an issue the whole state needs to be apart of.
Those in opposition of the bill say they have problems with the language. They believe it gives the county mayor unilateral authority over the selection of the third and final site.
“I don’t think one person should be doing that in that short of a time and not allowing cities to have proper input,” said George Chapman, a resident who is against the bill.
Rep. Gibson refutes that assertion.
‘There’s not one person that’s going to choose this site. This will have to be approved by the county council as well as the Homeless Coordinating Committee.”
Opponents are also concerned with the speed at which these deadlines are coming saying the bill doesn’t give the public enough time to weigh the pros and cons of the sites which have yet to be made public.
“You can not support a plan or expect the public to support a plan that only has one week of public engagement,” said Chapman.
Mayor McAdams says while the deadline is short it’s what the legislature asked for but ensures there will be plenty of opportunities for the public to be engaged.
“We’re gonna have two open houses, one on the 14th and one on the 18th, and then we’re gonna have a committee hearing where we can get additional comment on the 22nd and then we will be making our meeting on the 28th to make our rankings,” said McAdams.
McAdams would not elaborate on sites the county was considering when asked about them, even as the date for the first public meeting approaches next Tuesday.
The city plans to have it’s two resource centers open by 2019 with a closing date for the Road Home, which currently houses the majority of the city’s homeless population, by June 30, 2019.
The bill also asks for 20-million dollars to build all three facilities and will rely on donors to make the facilities fully functional.
House Bill 441 unanimously passed the committee and will now head to the House Floor for further discussion.