New Homeless Shelter Plan Leaves Questions Unanswered

Has Salt Lake City’s newest plan for homeless shelters resolved the site-selection fiasco—or just gotten Mayor Jackie Biskupski out of the line of fire?

Biskupski and Mayor Ben McAdams announced today (Friday) that the homeless shelter plan that originally called for two shelters in the city, but was changed to four smaller shelters under pressure from city council is now two shelters again—with a third shelter planned for somewhere outside SLC limits.

Again, the decision was made with no public input, a complaint that enraged residents over the four-shelter plan from the day the sites were announced.

Good news for Sugar House:

The hotly opposed Simpson Avenue shelter is DOA, so residents can stop picketing Jackie.


Bad news for the Ball Park neighborhood: The High Avenue shelter will be larger (150 expanded to 200 beds), but it will probably house men and women.


High Avenue Site proposed for Homeless Resource Center

Bad news for the Liberty Wells neighborhood: The shelter proposed for the downtown Deseret Industry property (131 E. 700 South) will be larger (150 to 200 beds), but will probably house only women and children.

Good news for Biskupski: She won’t have to fear facing Sugar House residents who had organized to oppose not only the Simpson site, but her re-election.

A third shelter, sited outside the city limits (possibly Murray) and capped at 300 men, will be announced by April.

Says Biskupski: 

“In an effort to address concerns from the State, County, and City—including my concern that Salt Lake City not be the primary location for homeless services, but a strong partner—we are releasing a new proposal on the location and size of new resource centers.”

Judging from the attendance of House Speaker Greg Hughes, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox at the announcement, it would appear that McAdams and Biscupski where under some duress to come up with a more workable plan or not get additional state funding.

Hughes said the Road Home shelter in the Rio Grande district will have a “hard close date” of June 30, 2019. Many homeless advocates had hoped that the Road Home would be kept as a backup until the untried “new model” for dealing with homelessness  proves itself.

Here’s the new model’s math problem: The proposed shelters will provide 700 beds, the Road Home houses 1,100-to 1,400 people nightly, not counting scores of “hard-core” homeless who camp out throughout the city.

Will the new comprehensive services model get (and keep) 400 to 700 homeless people, suffering from issues of addiction to joblessness, into housing? With any luck Biskupski will be out of office before the bill comes due.

Curiously, the site at 648 W. 100 South, which the city already owns, was removed from the list.

Glen Warchol
Glen Warchol
The late, great Glen Warchol passed away in 2018. His last billet was on the editorial staff here at Salt Lake magazine but his storied career included stops at The Salt Lake Tribune, The Desert News, The New Times and others. His stories haunt this website like ghosts in a machine and we're always happy to see them. RIP Papa Warchol.

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