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Politics & Government

Despite Shortage Of Beds, Some Salt Lake City Residents And Officials Oppose New Homeless Overflow Shelter

homeless camp BAA.jpeg
Brian Albers
Salt Lake City Councilmember Darin Mano said while it’s “very clear” the city needs more resources to support people experiencing homelessness, it’s “bad policy” to put multiple homeless services in the Ballpark neighborhood.

There are two homeless resource centers currently in Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood — one for adults, the other for youth.

Now, the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, Shelter the Homeless, and Volunteers of America are proposing an overflow homeless shelter in the area. The potential shelter would have 80-100 beds. There’s a detox center currently at the site.

A Utah legislative committee is expected to vote on funding for the project Tuesday afternoon.

Amy Hawkins, chair of the Ballpark Community Council, said the neighborhood is already stuffed with social services.

“Unfortunately, I think we're over capacity,” Hawkins said. “I would love for it to be true that placing homeless resource centers and other services in our neighborhood hasn't had a negative impact. But unfortunately, we see a lot of evidence.”

Last week, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall withdrew her support from the shelter. She had previously voted for it as a member of the Utah Homelessness Council.

Mendenhall said she learned about an additional proposed shelter within city limits — on top of the Ballpark shelter — and felt it was “simply untenable to ask this city to support two more emergency shelters.”

Councilmember Darin Mano represents the Ballpark neighborhood on the Salt Lake City Council. He said he’s waffled between supporting and opposing the project because of the need for more safe spaces for unsheltered people.

But ultimately, he’s against it.

“I know that we can find other resources in other parts of the city and in other parts of the state,” Mano said. “ I just hope that this sends a message to those that are helping to site those resources that they do need to be looking to spread those out.”

Some homeless outreach and housing organizations expressed their disappointment in that decision. Wasatch Tenants United, a local renters group, tweeted that some of their members live in the Ballpark neighborhood.

“If you count the dozens of car campers, the homeless camps along West Temple, 300 West, and around Ballpark Trax, there are at least 150 homeless Ballpark community members this shelter could have helped,” they said.

In August, Mendenhall announced 300 more shelter beds were needed to support unsheltered people in the city.

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