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Residents Offer Input On Future of Homeless Services in Salt Lake City

Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Creative Commons

The public got a glimpse Wednesday night of the work Salt Lake City’s Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission has done so far.

The 28-member commission formed by Mayor Ralph Becker, set out in January to answer these key questions: Should homeless service centers like The Road Home and the Rescue Mission be relocated? And if not, how can they be improved in their existing location. Scott Howell is chair of the Pioneer Park Coalition and a member of the commission.

“We can end homelessness as we know it today,” Howell says. “But right now what happens down on the streets in the Rio Grande area is unacceptable. It’s not acceptable to anyone. And especially the homeless.”

In its first two meetings, the commission identified gaps in existing services including detox and mental health facilities, housing, capacity for day services and the ability to connect individuals to services. Members say safety and community buy-in is the highest priority. Poster boards filled the halls with examples of homeless facilities in other cities like Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

Elizabeth Buehler is the homeless services coordinator for Salt Lake City. She says all options are on the table.

“Right now we’re in the stage where we want to look at each of these cities and figure out what are these cities doing right that we might use,” Buehler says, “and what are they doing wrong that we want to avoid?”

Ann Pineda lives in the Fairpark community. She’s hoping the commission can find a model to work with homeless individuals to help them contribute and stay off the streets.  

“That requires them to be some place,” Pineda says. “To do something. To spend their time somehow in a community where they’re learning something, in exchange for the services that they get.”

The commission will meet four more times this year before making recommendations to Mayor Ralph Becker, the Salt Lake City Council and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

Information provided at the open house is available here.

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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