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City Council Considers More Shelters With Fewer Beds

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Members of the Salt Lake City Council have doubts about a plan to build two new homeless shelters that sleep 250 people each. They say more shelters with fewer beds would better serve the homeless and the communities where they’re built. 

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has pitched a plan to build two detox centers, two, 250-bed shelters and a family resource center. Salt Lake City is in charge of deciding where the two new shelters should go. At Tuesday’s council work session, Councilman Derrek Kitchen questioned whether the shelters should be limited to two. He lives next to the new Volunteers of America Youth Resource Center, which has 30 overnight beds. 

“Now that that’s been operational for a few months, I will say that even 30 beds has a real impact in the neighborhood and it’s programmed really well.”

Councilwoman Lisa Ramsey Adams suggested five shelters at 100 beds each, which, she acknowledged would be a more costly endeavor.

“And if we have funders, whether they be legislators or private donations who think that we’re asking too much of them, join us on a walk along 500 west and see what folks are experiencing.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said that number was born out of a year of research.

“I’m greatly concerned about numbers coming out of nowhere. Like we somehow think, somehow a hundred will work better.”

Biskupski says councilmembers haven’t been as involved in the process as they could be.

“I think they would be much more well-informed. So, I think it’s a matter of us now helping them get informed.”

There was some confusion among the council and mayor’s office about whether the $27 million state lawmakers agreed to set aside for the new shelters was contingent on the 250-bed configuration. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said it’s not. He’s open to different ideas but said building more shelters likely means going to the legislature for more money. 

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