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Council Okays Funding For Rio Grande Area Homeless

The Salt Lake City council plans to set aside roughly half a million dollars to address pressing homeless issues in the Rio Grande neighborhood.

Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County are working together on long-term solutions to homelessness like housing and new shelters. But Tuesday night, the Salt Lake City Council gave preliminary approval to for funding to address more immediate problems. Some of that money will be used to bring in portable toilets to the neighborhood around Pioneer Park. The rest has yet to be assigned.

Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall says the council will be looking to the city’s Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission and the county’s Collective Impact homeless services committee for ideas.

“I’m in favor of us releasing it to the administration and the folks working on it right now, so it can get on the ground immediately,” Mendenhall says.

Tuesday night, members of the public including Kristina Robb, director of the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, told the council there isn’t sufficient policing in the neighborhood.

“What we get for lack of foot patrol is the wonderful bicycle police coming around addressing a specific issue and then pushing the crime immediately, instantaneously, to an area in the same couple of block radiuses that does not have police presence.”

“We need a place for folks to be. We need a place for them to get services and help,” says Councilman Andrew Johnston. “We can’t just go down and enforce and push them out of public spaces.”

This month, Councilwoman Mendenhall says 33 new officers will graduate and enter patrol for Salt Lake City. And on any given day, she says 30 officers are on bike patrol in the Rio Grande area. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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