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Salt Lake City Mayor Outlines Plan To Address Homelessness As Coronavirus Pandemic Continues

Erin Mendenhall gestures in front of City Hall.
KUER file
To address a growing number of people experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake City, Mayor Erin Mendenhall outlined a two-phase plan that increases cleanups of homeless encampments and intends to connect individuals with social services.

Health, education and economic stability for Salt Lake City residents are all on Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s mind as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

But she said the most pressing issue is dealing with an increase in unsheltered people on city streets.

“Our goal here is to allow our public spaces to be more clean and more safe and more accessible to all of our residents,” Mendenhall said, “and to provide the resources that people experiencing homelessness on our streets today need.”

At the city council’s work session Tuesday afternoon, Mendenhall detailed a two-part program to achieve that. The first sets up regular encampment cleanups throughout the city, particularly focused in areas where many people experiencing homelessness gather, like in the North Temple and Ballpark neighborhoods.

The second part includes connecting those individuals with drug treatment and other community services through a mobile outreach team — and then shutting down campsites.

“We’re hoping that this enhanced outreach and resolution of legal issues, that we’ll be able to connect people with housing and with any drug treatment options that we’re making available through this project,” Mendenhall said.

She said the cleaning portion of the plan could happen immediately but would require more funding to continue past November.

She said she’s hoping to set up an emergency shelter like the city did last winter in Sugar House, but there’s no solution set in stone yet. She said the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness is still looking for a building and funding for such a facility.

The mayor also proposed $1.6 million for educational and child care programming as well as directing any additional federal pandemic funding to provide personal protective equipment for Salt Lake businesses.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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