Salt Lake City councilman to lead homelessness outreach

District Two representative Andrew Johnston accepted a position as the city’s Director of Homelessness Policy and Outreach.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Councilman Andrew Johnston, represents District 2 in Salt Lake City which includes Glendale, Fair Park and Poplar Grove, Wednesday July 1, 2020.

Salt Lake City Councilman Andrew Johnston is leaving his position on the council to take on a new role where he will coordinate the city’s homelessness policies and services.

Johnston, who represents people living in the Glendale, Poplar Grove and Fairpark neighborhoods, has been appointed the city’s Director of Homelessness Policy and Outreach by Mayor Erin Mendenhall. He will work with the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness and other government entities, according to a news release from the mayor’s office. He will advise the mayor and collaborate with state initiatives to end homelessness.

Speaking at a news conference Friday afternoon, Mendenhall said Johnston understands the situation from both a service and legislative position. Mendenhall said homelessness is the most difficult and persistent issue politically in Salt Lake City.

Johnston is a licensed social worker who has worked in homelessness and addiction issues in Utah and Maine. As vice president for program operations with Volunteers of America, Utah, he was involved in the 2019 transition of women from the Road Home to Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center. Former Gov. Gary Herbert appointed Johnston to the Utah State Commission on Housing Affordability in 2018.

Johnston said at the news conference that federal and state funding will create a rare infusion of money to address homelessness. He said he wants to make plans for how the money can best be put to use before it arrives.

He said solving homelessness will take a lot of effort and will happen a piece at a time.

“We need to lay a groundwork here to start that process,” he said.

In order to begin his new job, Johnston will be resigning from his spot on the council. The City Council will accept applications for a replacement to serve the rest of his term. The City Recorder’s Office will release more information on that application process soon.