Activists call for overflow homeless shelter, but SLC Mayor says current resources going unused

Posted at 9:26 PM, Dec 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 23:27:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- As the temperatures drop, sleeping on the streets can turn deadly, and homeless advocates say Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski isn't doing enough to help.

Alixzandra Smallwood and her daughter spent last winter in and out of homeless shelters.

"There’s a lot of people at the shelter who are sleeping on floors and in the kitchens, in the laundry room," Smallwood said.

Smallwood joined several others outside Mayor Biskupski's office Friday afternoon, holding signs and sharing stories about their struggles. These homeless people and their supporters, like Ashley Hoopes and Rocky Anderson, claim the shelters are bursting at the seams and they want the mayor to provide an overflow facility.

"We need a place for these women and children and individuals to go so they can be safe," Hoopes said.

"Nobody wants to see these people sleeping outside in this kind of weather," Biskupski said. "Nobody including me."

Mayor Biskupski says she hasn't received any requests from the service providers to open an overflow shelter.

"That simply has not come our way, nor do I think it would help though, because, again, those people who are choosing to sleep outside do not want to be in a big facility," Biskupski said.

She says more than $200,000 is available for the homeless to stay in local motels when shelters fill up.

"They should be offering readily, space in a hotel or motel, and the fact that funds have simply not been requested for that option is my concern," Biskupski said.

However, these advocates say that solution is a just band-aid, not a cure.

"That is such a short-sighted view," Anderson said. "We’re talking about putting in place a program that will be there for the duration whenever it's too cold, whenever the shelters are at capacity."

The advocates have started an online petition asking the mayor to create an overflow shelter. Click here for details.