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Lack of staff limits Salt Lake City homeless shelters, Mayor calls for help

Mayor calls for help with staffing homeless shelters
Emily Means
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and representatives from the Road Home, Volunteers of America and other service providers made a plea to community members to help staff homeless shelters on Dec. 23, 2021.

There are more than 100 vacant positions among Salt Lake-area organizations that serve homeless people, and that’s making it hard to provide resources this winter.

During a press conference Thursday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and service providers asked community members to step up and help.

“We are a city, we are a state known for volunteerism and for supporting each other,” Mendenhall said. “This need is great and it is acute.”

Nearly a third of the open positions are for a winter overflow shelter in Salt Lake City. Mendenhall said it can’t fully open until there are enough people to staff it.

“There are people sleeping on our streets last night and tonight who could be in this shelter if the Road Home were able to have enough applicants qualified for staffing it and keeping the facility safe and running,” she said.

Michelle Flynn, the Road Home’s executive director, said social services are struggling to hire just like any other industry right now.

“This is the hardest in my 20-plus years that we’ve ever had in filling our positions,” Flynn said. “I think there’s a lot of competition out there. As a non-profit, we have the additional value of the really good work that we do.”

She said her organization has raised starting wages for overflow positions to $16 an hour, and the shelter will open as early as possible in January.

The Salt Lake City Council approved the use of the Ramada Inn on North Temple as an emergency overflow shelter in November. Once open, it will have space for approximately 250 beds.

Other permanent facilities in Salt Lake County consistently run near or at capacity.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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