In a desperate game of catch up, Mayor Jackie Biskupski is trying to get information out to city residents on the new homeless resource centers. But judging from the first public design workshop, it’s too little, too late.
The workshop at Salt Lake Community College turned into more of an anti-shelter and oust-Jackie recruiting meeting than an opportunity for zoning and design feedback.
More than 55 Sugar House residents met last night to combine their groups to form one effective opposition group, says Chris Sveiven. “We’ve been lied to from the beginning,” he said. “We have no faith that they can move forward with this without fumbling.”
The activists, most from Sugar House and most novices at politics, have formed several groups to block the resource center on Simpson Avenue. The groups’ goals range from “take no prisoners” in denying Biscupski re-election to simply coming up with a better option than Simpson Avenue.
Robert Breeze of SaveSimpson says his group wants to end Biscupski’s career as mayor. “We’re saying there is no compromise [on the center site],” Breeze says. “And we are taking no prisoners.” He vows the group will picket or boycott the mayor and anyone who supports her.
But most of the activists agree the city needs a solution for homelessness, but think that the Simpson Avenue site is a poor choice that the city paid an inflated price for. “Absolutely, I would accept a better site,” Sveiven said. “It’s not that we are absolutely against a shelter in Sugar House but there are other options.”
Emily Pennock, whose front door is 400 feet from the Simpson center says she supports the scattered-site plan for shelters, but like many activists, wonders why city council and the mayor’s office overlooked the former Deseret Industry store at 2200 S. Highland Drive that many residents feel makes more sense.
But their anger is clear. “I’m shy,” says Pennock. “I haven’t had the nerve to get up to speak at meetings. But now, I plan on getting up and speaking.”