Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Jim Dalrymple II | The Salt Lake Tribune) A file photo of Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park from Sept. 2013
Salt Lake City unveils new strategy for Pioneer Park homeless

Resources » New center will connect people with services.

First Published Aug 12 2014 06:18 pm • Last Updated Aug 13 2014 02:49 pm

Salt Lake City has been rolling out a new strategy to deal with homelessness around Pioneer Park that officials say emphasizes the carrot over the stick.

The centerpiece of that strategy is the police department’s new Metro Support Bureau Resource Center at 420 W. 200 South, directly in the heart of the city’s homeless population.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Police officers at the resource center will be joined by service providers who can help the homeless with the wide array of problems that afflict them.

"If we are beating everything in the area with the police stick, which is simply jail, then we are doing a disservice to this community and to all members of our society," said Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank during a Tuesday news conference. "In fact, we are better served when we consider alternatives to incarceration."

Still, the department’s arrest statistics suggest that police have not completely disavowed the stick. Even as Burbank lauded the city’s new homeless initiatives — additional housing units coupled with programs to treat mental illness and drug addiction — the chief noted that the department made 423 arrests in the Pioneer Park area between July 7 and August 8, a jump from last year.

But Burbank insisted that police are striking a balance, aggressively pursuing serious criminals while ensuring people who are simply down on their luck aren’t being harassed by police.

"What we’re looking at is identifying those individuals who are the root of the problems, and they’re problems for everybody, and then taking those individuals out of the equation," Burbank said.

Echoing Burbank, Mayor Ralph Becker said that far from criminalizing homelessness, the city wants to direct homeless people in need of help to services rather then sending them to jail.

"The important thing is to just embed in all of us who work with the homeless, including our law enforcement officials, to commit to not treating the homeless population as criminals, because they’re not," Becker said.

"It doesn’t mean there aren’t criminals among the homeless, but our homeless population are folks who have, for a whole variety of different reasons, had a really tough time in their lives," Becker added.


story continues below
story continues below

Officers are being discouraged from arresting homeless people for minor misdemeanors, Burbank added.

"Jail is not the best answer for drugs and alcohol addiction. We have service providers with much better opportunities and chances for them to be successful," Burbank said.

Among those service providers are the nonprofits Volunteers of America and The Road Home, both of which have offices near Pioneer Park. The nonprofits are spearheading a new outreach program that seeks to direct homeless people with mental illness or drug addiction to treatment programs.

The city also will be providing more housing for the homeless as part of its "housing first" approach, which has gained currency in many American cities in recent years.

"Housing is the ultimate goal for Salt Lake City in homeless services," said Liz Buehler, who in November became the city’s first Homeless Services Coordinator.

In the next 18 months, the city wants to find housing for the 20 people who most use homeless services, with a final aim of building 300 housing units for homeless individuals and their families, Buehler said.

hstevens@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Harry_Stevens



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.