SALT LAKE CITY — “I believe we do need another shelter in the State of Utah,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall told the Salt Lake Tribune. But is it enough to solve the city’s growing homeless crisis?
Homeless advocates and people living on the streets tell FOX13 the multi-million dollar approach to close the troubled Road Home shelter and build three smaller homeless resource centers in Salt Lake County was ineffective to solve chronic homelessness, and in fact, the problem is getting worse.
“It’s just hard all the way around,” a man experiencing homelessness named Tom said Wednesday.
Tom spent most of his life homeless and this spring he’s seeing more people just like him.
“It’s really hard. There are so many people out here now. We all try to help each other what little bit we can,” said Tom.
With the closure of the Road Home shelter in 2019, state and local leaders intended to move away from “warehousing” people and instead, focus on moving them off the streets for good.
Almost from the start, the three resource centers neared full capacity which forced the city to open up emergency shelters during winter months.
“They tore down the one shelter that pretty much housed everything. If they left that up and build a couple more, they might have had something,” said Tom.
The city’s homeless crisis is complex. Yet, advocates say the climbing number of unsheltered people can be blamed on the pandemic, unaffordable housing and even neighboring cities dropping people off.
“Capacity was a huge issue from the very beginning and it was one that wasn’t adequately dealt with,” said Crossroads Urban Center’s Glenn Bailey.
Mayor Mendenhall admits the resource centers aren’t reaching the chronically homeless. She is looking into constructing a tiny home community later this year.
Advocates argue single-occupant housing, such as an old hotel, will help, too. A solution, whatever it is can’t come soon enough for property owners struggling with encampments.
“I feel completely unsafe. I carry mace with me. I have people approach me constantly,” said Kevin Bronson.