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Address the city’s growing homelessness crisis

Salt Lakers experiencing homelessness are still our neighbors and deserve our compassion and support

Image of pages of Erin Mendenhall's homelessness plan with the words DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE PLAN

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake City is on the rise for the first time in years, but finding solutions to address homelessness isn’t a conversation that Salt Lake City can have alone: we must partner with the county, the state of Utah, and work with other towns and cities around the state.

Salt Lake City has taken a more dynamic approach through partnerships with the county health department and state than it has previously, collectively committing tens of millions of dollars to pilot programs to help people reach detox, help people be able to make down payments on homes, and to help even more pay rent. Erin will continue with programs that have the strongest outcomes for our taxpayer dollars and help people resolve homelessness in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The new homeless resource center model naturally creates challenges that we must be ready to address. The three new homeless resource centers have strict caps on the number of beds: 200 for each of the Salt Lake City homeless resource centers and 300 at the South Salt Lake center. When the resource centers are at capacity, Salt Lake City needs to be prepared to move people off of the streets, to somewhere that is safe and stable. It’s imperative that we continue working together to support the shelter-resistant population and keep our neighbors housed whenever possible.

A RECORD OF RESULTS

On the City Council, Erin:

  • Created the city’s first women’s homeless shelter, providing 200 beds and assistance to help people transition into stable work and safe housing; and
  • When the mayor rejected funding for Rape Recovery Center, Erin found the money for them and rolled them into our general fund, so they no longer have to compete with other non-profits and now have on-going annual funding.

POLICY COMMITMENTS

The imminent reduction in beds for the city’s homeless population because of the closure of the Road Home may leave hundreds of Salt Lakers without a safe place to sleep. Whether they have a home or not, these people are our neighbors and we need to work to help them. We have a responsibility to ensure that homelessness is rare, one-time, and brief.

As mayor, Erin will:

Work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the winter months

Engage the state, county, downtown businesses, and residents on a plan for accommodating homeless residents in the winter and when the shelters are full, creating a seasonal, low-barrier emergency shelter with community partners.

Expand Downtown Ambassadors and Park Ranger programs

The Downtown Ambassador and Park Ranger programs were created to provide support and resources for people experiencing homelessness or have similar needs. Erin will expand on our partnership with Volunteers for America and properly fund the Downtown Ambassadors and Park Ranger programs to prevent evictions and homelessness by connecting more at-risk people with supportive services. Ambassadors act as the eyes and ears for our homeless population, ensuring these community members are aware of service providers, and how and where to take advantage of hot meals or a bed, should they choose. Ambassadors are not security officers or police officers: they carry no weapons and are there purely and simply to help.

With the new shelter resource model and the closing of the Road Home, people experiencing homelessness are living across our city rather than concentrated around Pioneer Park. As mayor, Erin will work to expand these two programs, increasing the number of Ambassadors and Park Rangers across the city providing support and resource to the most vulnerable and ensuring neighborhood safety.

Work to reduce no-fault evictions by strengthening tenants’ rights ordinances, increasing landlord compliance related to fair treatment of tenants

Preventing homelessness is a critical element to addressing this growing crisis. Evictions are a leading cause of housing in stability and it’s time that Salt Lake City gets proactive in reducing no-fault evictions and providing education to renters and landlords. Salt Lake City has dedicated funding to the Building an Equitable City program to allow advocates to provide short-term rental assistance, eviction mediation in the courtroom, and education for renters about Utah Renter Laws in order to prevent eviction. Erin will work to continue this funding and support community organizations that are working to empower renters with education.

Increase the number of SRO housing units

In 1978, Salt Lake City had 800 single-room occupancy (SRO) housing units — a great housing option for, among others, people experiencing homelessness because it allows them to exit the street or shelter and be in safe, stable housing. Now, due to changes in zoning and redevelopment, Salt Lake City only has 50 SRO housing units available, which doesn’t provide many options for someone who is experiencing homelessness to find a safe place to sleep and store their belongings.

In April 2019, the City Council was preparing to vote and pass an ordinance that would allow for more single room occupancy housing units in specific areas in Salt Lake City. However, the city decided to postpone a vote and take time to review the city’s zoning ordinances to ensure that affordable housing types are not continued to be concentrated in areas of poverty. As mayor, Erin will conduct a thorough review of zoning codes and ordinances to ensure that plans for SROs or ADUs are equitably located throughout the city and that we have enough SROs and alternative types of housing.