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Local leaders strive to fund units to house Salt Lake City's homeless

Posted at 5:25 PM, Sep 13, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City officials say they’re trying to get more funding to help curb the problem of homelessness.

The state and Salt Lake County already have money going toward an investment in more units to help house those experiencing homelessness. Salt Lake City is now joining that effort to accelerate construction.

“It’s up to us to show what kind of wonderful outcomes we can give because of the money that they gave us,” said Pamela Atkinson, who has been working with the homeless population in Salt Lake for nearly three decades, and is talking about the city’s investment in creating more housing solutions.

“It is the largest single year increase in permanent and transitional housing in the city’s history,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

The mayor announced a proposal Tuesday to finance more than 400 homeless housing units through a $6 million grant, in addition to state and county money already going toward the initiative.

She added that the funding is from a capital investment program, with dollars in the budget that she says they are “ready to get out.”

“Our challenges – housing, housing, housing. The cost of housing, the market cost of housing, a mobile and changing population, and the complexity of the continuum of need,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

Atkinson says projects like these are crucial because it helps address individual needs of people -- rather than using a one-size fits all approach.

“Our homeless friends are no different from the general public and each of them like different types of housing.. now one person likes the tiny homes, another person likes the apartment, other people just like one room and share a bathroom, and they’re very very different,” she said. “I think our job is to make sure that we can pair those people into the right type of shelter and helping them getting better.”

The concept is for developers to be able to apply for grant money from the fund to build units in their properties for those experiencing homeless by April 2023, once the winter overflow shelters close.

“We have service providers, we have housing providers, who have identified locations that are already built and so they’re adapting them to become permanent housing, and they’re ready to go, they’re in the pipeline and by collectively pooling our finances from the state, county and city, they’re going to be able to open those doors very quickly”,” said Mendenhall.

Atkinson says every dollar invested and every move made is a step in the right direction to help those in need and get people off the streets.

“It’s the small things that make a difference and a small amount of caring for one homeless person is going to make a huge difference,” said Atkinson.

The proposal will go in front of Salt Lake City Council next, with public comment opportunities, and then will be formalized for developers to apply for the dollars soon after.