Mayors update legislature on homeless shelter solutions

SALT LAKE CITY — In a joint appearance, the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County updated lawmakers on how they’re spending millions in taxpayer dollars on fixing the homeless problem.

“We are looking at this in a very different fashion than ever before and we will have measurable outcomes,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Legislative Management Committee.

The Utah State Legislature has committed $27 million toward newer, smaller shelters and better services for the homeless. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said right now, they’re laying the groundwork for a social safety net to keep people out of shelters.

Homeless outside the Road Home Shelter in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande neighborhood.

Homeless outside the Road Home Shelter in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande neighborhood.

On Tuesday, McAdams revealed a program to keep people out of jail, relying on private contributors to help provide housing.

“I call this program the first 250-bed shelter we will not build because it’s not a shelter,” he said. “It’s a diversion program.”

Salt Lake City will ultimately get two new shelters. The city council will pick whose neighborhood. Biskupski said that she was having a closed-door meeting with the council and giving them a list of potential shelter sites. She said five sites will ultimately be made public by Oct. 10 for comment, and the final two are expected to be selected by Nov. 1.

Biskupksi said she is working on a plan to deal with crime that’s taken over the Rio Grande neighborhood. The mayor would not reveal what she has planned.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski (left) and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (right) speak to the Legislative Management Committee. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski (left) and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (right) speak to the Legislative Management Committee. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

“We believe this plan is very unique and will disrupt what is happening down there in a significant fashion,” she told FOX 13.

At Tuesday’s meeting, legislative leadership said it wants to make sure whatever happens with homeless services leads to positive change.

“The funding, we’re going to watch that closely,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. “We want reports. We want something we can actually see we are moving the dial on this.”