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Salt Lake City mayor opposes proposed Ballpark homeless facility

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Posted at 12:32 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 16:52:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Erin Mendenhall says she is against the idea of a new homeless service facility in the Ballpark neighborhood.

"I oppose putting a new homeless service facility in the Ballpark neighborhood, and earlier this week I withdrew my support for using state funds to pay for it. The County needs more beds to meet the needs of our unsheltered population," the mayor tweeted Thursday.

READ: Salt Lake City hiring more police officers, targeting repeat offenders in effort to reduce violent crime

"It isn't tenable to ask this City to support two more emergency shelters, on top of the 853 beds we already support. New emergency shelter beds must also come online in jurisdictions throughout the County to better balance the system," added Mendenhall.

In a letter to the State Homeless Coordinating Committee sent Tuesday, Mendenhall withdrew her support for using State funds to convert the Volunteers of America, Utah detoxification facility in the Ballpark neighborhood to an overflow emergency shelter facility.

READ: Salt Lake City residents, leaders discuss homelessness in Liberty Park

The mayor also reiterated the City's request for State and County support of public safety resources, mental health services, and a more equitable distribution of emergency shelter beds throughout the County, citing a need to see a commitment to progress on those priorities before she could support further expansion of emergency shelter beds in the City.

The city started an initiative in early August for targeted homeless enforcement that also added more bed space in the city.

"Salt Lake City has contributed considerably more than its fair share to addressing the statewide homelessness crisis," Mayor Mendenhall said. "However, it is clear that the State needs more emergency shelter beds. When the opportunity to get State funds for a future overflow emergency shelter in the City’s Ballpark neighborhood was presented a few weeks ago, I supported accessing those funds. Shortly after that vote, however, I learned of the very real possibility that providers will locate additional emergency shelter beds at a different location inside Salt Lake City. It is simply untenable to ask this City to support two more emergency shelters on top of the 853 beds we already support, let alone to ask the Ballpark community to shoulder another homeless services facility with zero guaranteed support dollars from the State."

When FOX 13 asked Mendenhall Wednesday about a homeless problem at Liberty park she said, “I know from conversations that I have had with mayors and council members across this state who look me in the eye and tell me if we see someone experiencing homelessness in our community, we put them in the back of a cop car and drop them off at Pioneer Park. That has to stop.”

She added that other cities across the county and Utah need to take more of the share of Utah's homeless issue.

As the city has moved to break up more homeless encampments, that has driven those in the camps elsewhere like Liberty Park.

“We knew that would happen” Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said Tuesday adding “when you relocate an encampment those that don’t take services or housing they need to go somewhere.”