A new approach to tackle homelessness: spread services out

A new approach to tackle homelessness: spread services out

(KUTV) Salt lake City and County leaders are ready to make big changes on how they tackle homelessness. The new approach, approved unanimously, will be individualized, providing care for different populations in smaller homes spread throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

Utah's Road Home in downtown Salt Lake, in the area of Rio Grande Street, has been the one size fits all solution for 35 years. It's no longer working according to two separate commissions looking into what is needed in the future. The new proposal separates out families, single women and single men. Its' an idea already at work homes for foster kids aging out of the system and another in West Jordan where they specifically shelter women escaping abuse.

Mayor Ben McAdams of Salt Lake County said today, "if we can break those populations into separate sites, separate disabilities, we can better focus on the needs."

McAdams, along with outgoing Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, have had commissions working to solve the problem for the last year.

"When we started, people had very divergent points of view of what should be done to address homelessness" said Becker. After a year of thoughtful research, they have come to the same conclusion and that is to split up the one big shelter into several smaller shelters.

Becker notes it is high time to move away from the much talked about Road Home Shelter. In Salt Lake City "conditions have changed" he says and in more than one way, including the neighborhood in which it's housed and the people who stay there.

Safety is one issue at the Road Home. Residents and those living and working in the area face a steady stream of drug sales on the street out front. And inside, families are forced to sleep with single men and women dealing with addiction. In some cases, homeless men listed on the sex-offender registry must sleep in the same confines as children and families.

Gayle Miller, a community advocate, has been working on the issue of homelessness and Utah and said, "the homeless population has to be recognized as individual people who have individual needs."

She like many others believes this change and an up-front cash drop from the legislature will save tax payer money in the long run.

They say there will be need for a one-time lump sum of $20 million from the legislature and another $7 million annually, $4 million of which will be used annually for maintenance of the facilities. The other $3 million for a program to keep people in their homes and out of the shelters.

The current cost for homeless housing in the area is $52 million. How that money plays into the new picture is not yet clear. Money will be an issue though, and incoming mayor Jackie Biskupski believes sharing costs is key.

"I hope that as we move forward, we are working together" adding "other cities (besides Salt Lake City) and counties have the same burden of some sort."

House speaker Greg Hughes was at today's meeting saying the process has been a good one but made no promises about funding.

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