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Provo wants residents to weigh in on how it will use $4.3M for homelessness

Aerial view of Provo, the Y Mountain, Brigham Young University and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Brett Taylor
/
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Aerial view of Provo, the Y Mountain, Brigham Young University and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Utah County officials are seeking public comment on ways to spend federal money to reduce homelessness and increase housing stability.

Provo, on behalf of the Utah Valley Consortium, was awarded $5,144,957 in Home American Rescue Plan funding back in September 2021. More than $4.3 million can be used to benefit those who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

Developing a permanent, emergency shelter in Provo and Utah County is one idea leaders are hearing about from the community, said Melissa McNalley with the city of Provo’s Development Services department.

"It has been mentioned several times in my meetings with the continuum of care members that the most needed housing is the temporary housing that's 30 to 60 days before those who are experiencing homelessness enter into more, more permanent supportive housing," she said during a Feb. 14 city council meeting.

Neither the city nor the county operates a homeless shelter.

According to data from the Point in Time Count, the homeless population in Utah County grew from 148 to 206 people between 2020 and 2022. The results for 2023 are still being tallied.

Per federal regulations, the funding would be limited to the following:

  • Development and support of affordable housing
  • Tenant based rental assistance
  • Provision of supportive services
  • Acquisition and development of non-congregate shelter units

While much of the effort to combat homelessness is concentrated in Provo, the funding could go toward efforts in cities throughout Utah County. During the meeting, Councilman George Handley wanted to know what things would look like if they were to develop a countywide plan to take on homelessness.

"I'm just wondering how do we avoid the problem where every city is pointing at everybody else saying ‘you do it?’ And it seems like the county could be a real helpful partner in saying we're going to do a countywide solution. We're asking for this kind of level of cooperation from all the cities rather than it just grinding into a fight."

In an interview with KUER, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said the city is working “to dispel this idea that Provo ignores homelessness.”

“We are all about help and resources and literally there is no reason a single soul in the city of Provo should be out in the cold," she said of efforts to provide wraparound services.

McNalley told the council they are hoping to get as much public comment as they can on how the funds should be allocated. The comment period goes through Mar. 4, 2023.

From there, the planning commission will produce a draft of the allocation plan and open another comment period for the proposed options to present to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by Mar. 31, 2023.

"So this is just us telling HUD how we're going to use the money. It's not saying we're specifically going to allocate this, but at that point, once we've submitted the plan and they accepted it, we have until 2030 to spend it."

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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