Salt Lake City drops two homeless shelter sites from consideration

Posted at 11:37 AM, Feb 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 23:21:34-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Plans to build four homeless shelters in the city -- including a highly contentious one in the Sugar House neighborhood -- have been abandoned, Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced.

"Salt Lake City has committed to building just two new resource centers, capped at 200 beds each," Mayor Biskupski said at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Instead, the city will no longer build shelters on 600 West (near the Gateway mall) and on Simpson Ave. in Sugar House. The decision comes after intense public pressure put on the mayor and city council over their decision on where the four shelter sites would be located -- particularly by residents in Sugar House.

"This has been hard, but a path worth taking and there’s no question we are heading in the right direction in a unified fashion," Mayor Biskupski told reporters.

The mayor appeared with Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, House Speaker Greg Hughes, Murray Mayor Ted Eyre, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, who all presented a unified front about homeless issues in the state.

Mayor McAdams announced the county will build a shelter outside Salt Lake City limits. He said there's a March deadline from the state, so the process will begin quickly to pick a new site. Mayor McAdams promised a public site selection process, but asked how he could guard against the cries of "not in my backyard" that his counterpart in Salt Lake City was hammered with, McAdams appealed to people's good nature.

"We don’t want to ask just one city to bear the entire brunt of this burden, so we’re asking people to look at the best inside them and to be willing to step forward," he said.

Homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson told FOX 13 she expected "NIMBY" to be invoked again.

"Of course there will be bickering. Nobody says, 'I want a shelter, a resource center in our backyard.' I think we will clearly describe what resources will go on, what will not go on," she said.

Murray Mayor Ted Eyre expressed some interest in potentially hosting a shelter site. Rep. Hughes, R-Draper, announced the Road Home will close on June 30, 2019.

The Utah State Legislature has already committed $27 million to homeless issues. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, will run a bill to come up with additional funding, which he said would be less than $10 million.

"At the end of the day it’s about human beings," Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said. "It’s about individual people. We can’t ever lose sight about that."