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Temporary homeless shelter approved for Salt Lake City

Posted at 5:49 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 20:11:57-05

SALT LAKE CITY — In an emergency meeting Friday, the Salt Lake City Council voted to authorize a temporary overflow homeless shelter.

A hotel located at 2333 W. North Temple will be rezoned into a temporary shelter. The hotel will serve as an overflow shelter until April 15.

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Those lining the streets are a visible reminder of those who are unsheltered, but they are not the only homeless this year.

Melissa Freigang, director of the Weber Prosperity Center for Excellence, said one of the many causes for homelessness is domestic violence.

"When people think of homelessness, they don’t necessarily think of domestic violence and emergency shelters," said Freigang.

In one of the largest facilities for Weber County, the Lantern House, Freigang said they've seen a 47 percent increase since March of those who are homeless for the first time.

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Out of their more than 1,000 new clients at the shelter, Freigang said 650 reported being unsheltered for the first time.

In their Youth Futures home, 31 out of their 46 clients in 2020 were homeless for the first time, reports Freigang, making that a 67 percent increase.

"The pandemic has had a pretty significant impact on the homeless population and our low-income families," said Freigang.

The Department of Workforce Services reports the opposite for Salt Lake County.

"We’ve seen a significant decrease in people using the services and the shelters," said Jonathan Hardy, director of the housing and community development division.

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Hardy has been with the State for 16 years and said the unsheltered homelessness has remained steady during his time with the department.

"What we typically report on are those accessing emergency shelter, are living on the street or are in some supportive housing," said Hardy.

From March to October in 2019, Hardy said there were 6,797 people using the homeless shelters in Salt Lake County.

For the same period of time in 2020, there were nearly 2,000 fewer people using the Salt Lake County homeless shelters, reporting 4,926 folks using them.

Hardy said 65 percent of Utah's homeless population can be found in Salt Lake City, largely because that's where most homeless resources can be found.

This was something Salt Lake City Councilman Andrew Johnston brought up in the emergency meeting discussing a new overflow site.

“Salt Lake City will host seven of the ten sites for homeless services this winter," said Johnston. "Effectively, all of them are on the west side of state street.”

Whether visibly homeless on the street or those invisible to the system, they all need resources.