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Draper pulls shelter sites after hundreds protest, boo homeless man

First Published      Last Updated Apr 01 2017 05:46 pm


“You folks don’t want it,” Walker tells the large and loud crowd at the open house, “so we can’t in good conscience say we want it here.”

After a pummeling from nearly 1,000 residents, Draper Mayor Troy Walker pulled two of his city's proposed homeless-shelter locations off the table.

He'd offered the sites the day before.

Residents demanded the rescindment during a nearly four-hour meeting Salt Lake County organized to try to relocate hundreds of homeless people from downtown Salt Lake City.

"You folks don't want it," Walker said, "so we can't in good conscience say we want it here."

That brings back to seven the number of proposed shelter sites, and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has a day to recommend a site to a state committee.




The action came after residents threatened Walker's impeachment, promised a lawsuit and portended opposition to the mayor's potential November re-election.

Residents packed an open house in the auditorium of Draper Park Middle School on Wednesday night to protest Walker's offer of sites at the soon-to-be-relocated Utah State Prison and at 15001 Minuteman Drive.

The group, which poured out the door of the school's 700-person-capacity auditorium, booed as Lawrence Horman called for compassion for homeless residents.

Horman told the group he was homeless. He lives in an orange shipping trailer with electricity from a nearby power pole on a commercial lot, he told The Tribune. The audience booed him as he called for patience.

"We'll help ourselves if you give us a place to start from," Horman told The Salt Lake Tribune after walking off the stage.

Behind him onstage were Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Walker, who both sat on a wooden bench as dozens of people took the stage to voice their opposition.

They stood and applauded as Draper residents and those from nearby Bluffdale questioned the motives of Walker, a Utah Transit Authority board member.

"This reeks of political corruption," said Zachary Cook, a Bluffdale resident.

Draper became the first town that appeared to be willing to host a shelter.

Residents made it clear that that wasn't the case.

Troy Martinez threatened to file a lawsuit, saying city leaders skirted the state's open meetings law; he told residents to expect his name on the ballot in November.

Another resident proposed buying for homeless residents one-way tickets to another city.

Few residents stood in front of the crowd and welcomed the proposed shelter into Draper. Jill Rowe was one of them.

"The idea is genius," Rowe said. "But because of the short timing, there's all kinds of rumors."

Walker said his proposal was only to accept a shelter that would house women and children who were looking for work or already were working.

But residents — as they did for the seven other proposed sites in West Valley City and South Salt Lake — said any shelter that's built will devolve into criminal behavior and drug abuse similar to that around the downtown Rio Grande District.

"You don't move the problem," Trent Davis said, "you handle the problem."

Many residents said onstage or yelled from the audience that they were upset Walker and three City Council members proposed the sites in Draper two days before a state-set deadline.

"Our main question is why you spring this two days before. Why in the eleventh hour?" said Kent Hastings. "I'm not saying it was corruption, I'm just saying the optics of this are horrible."

Walker was apologetic when he spoke before sitting back in his seat and taking a verbal lashing from residents.

"I've heard it, I get it," he said. The offer, he said, "came from my heart."

Shortly after 9 p.m., just over a day after pitching the two sites, he rescinded the offer.

McAdams tried to tell the audience the process wasn't finished. A site-selection committee is set to deliberate the nine proposed locations Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Capitol's Senate Office Building Room 210.

Later in the day, he is scheduled to deliver his top choice to a state committee, which is slated to weigh the matter until April 10.

The state, county and Salt Lake City are trying to close The Road Home by July 2019. They want to replace the shelter with two 200-bed resource centers in Salt Lake City and one of up to 300 beds elsewhere in the county.

The committee requires that the non-Salt Lake City site be near public transportation. The sites that had been offered in Draper aren't in the vicinity of public transportation, but McAdams said Tuesday that shuttles would temporarily mitigate that problem.

He proposed expediting plans to extend a TRAX line near the sites if a center were built in town.

Some residents asked whether Walker's seat on the UTA board had anything to do with his proposal.

"This has nothing to do with UTA," Walker said. "UTA wasn't a part of this conversation."

As the meeting ran for nearly two hours, employees from the Department of Workforce Services sat at a table in an empty cafeteria nearby.

They were present to give information about the proposal, but they said they weren't very busy throughout the meeting.

"People have a voice, I respect that," said Dan Powell, a department representative. "I wish they were speaking with a more educated voice."

Powell is a former heroin addict who was also homeless before becoming sober 11 years ago. He went into the auditorium to listen to residents just before Horman took the microphone. Shortly after, the boos began.

"This breaks my heart," Powell said.

tanderson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @taylorwanderson

 

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