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Audit says homeless shelters improving, but still work to be done

Shelter Security.jpg
Posted at 5:08 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 20:48:18-04

SALT LAKE CITY — An audit indicates safety and security at Utah's newest homeless shelters have improved since 2018, but there is still work to be done.

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State lawmakers received a follow up to a 2018 audit that found major security problems at Road Home shelters in Salt Lake City and Midvale that allowed drugs and other crimes to flourish.

The new audit released Monday by the Office of Legislative Auditor General shows that while security is better after a new set of policies were created, drug use and criminal activity remains.

"In response to audit findings, The Road Home and Shelter the Homeless adopted new safety protocols which they have applied at their three new HRCs [Homeless Resource Centers]. Additionally, the physical design of the HRCs includes safety features that were lacking at the former downtown shelter. As a result, HRC guests are less likely to encounter drug use, theft of personal items, and general disorder that was prevalent at the previous facility," the audit said.

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In 2018, the audit found that residents brought in weapons, and that there had been evidence of drug use during "nearly every visit" by investigators. Auditors said children were exposed to drug paraphernalia, including a crack pipe found by a 7-year-old.

The Road Home's screening procedures at the downtown location were considered inadequate, while auditors deemed no screening was administered at the Midvale shelter. Following the first audit, The Road Home was called upon to better enforce its own rules.

Largely it has, though some problems remained. Recommendations to further improve the shelter include deploying K-9 units to Road Home, providing operators with "clear guidance for responding to violations" of shelter policies, and improving the sharing of information with local law enforcement.

In response to the audit, homeless services providers like Shelter the Homeless said they would work to implement what is recommended — but it depends on money the legislature gives them.

"STH will collaborate with the resource center operators concerning staffing levels to best meet the needs of the HRC residents and effectively address the challenges that arise. Optimal staffing levels will be determined during annual budgeting cycles and implemented to the extent that funding allows, with the minimum staffing level being that which is required by the State licensing requirements," the group said.

Read the full audit here.