SLC’s legal homeless camp faces setback as state’s review committee shoots down bids from potential service providers

Utah officials plan to issue another request for bids by the end of the month.

Salt Lake City’s planned sanctioned homeless camp met a major hurdle Thursday after state officials canceled a request for bids from potential service providers without selecting a winner, marking a setback in the city’s ambitious plans to get a site up and running by winter.

Utah’s cancellation of bidding will delay the selection of who will operate the temporary shelter site.

“The scope of work and other requirements contained in the solicitation documents were not met by any person and no responses met the minimum technical threshold,” the cancellation notice states. “This service will be re-solicited in the near future.”

City officials announced in August that they were pursuing a sanctioned camp that would serve unsheltered Utahns in the coldest months. Mayor Erin Mendenhall at the time said her goal was to get a location operational by the time other winter shelter beds came on line. Those beds are beginning to open now.

“We’re disappointed in the delay to identify a provider for the temporary shelter community,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “But, we are committed to the success of this pilot program and that means it must be done right and with the needs of our unsheltered residents top of mind.”

While the city is leading the charge to get a sanctioned camp open before temperatures dip, local officials are working with state leaders on selecting a service provider. The state also has plans to open a sanctioned camp in the future.

Sarah Nielson, spokesperson for the state Office of Homeless Services, said the decision to scrap the bids came from a review committee consisting of state, city, nonprofit and City Council officials.

“The proposals underwent scoring and review by the six-member committee,” she added. “The decision was not a result of us rejecting the proposals but rather due to them not meeting our established scoring threshold.”

Service providers had from Sept. 18 to Oct. 2 to submit their bids.

Nielson said a new request for bids should be issued by the end of the month and will likely be open for two weeks. State officials, she said, expect to select a provider by the end of November.

“We anticipate that the reissuance of an updated grant proposal will encourage the submission of stronger proposals,” Nielson said in a statement. “This, in turn, will better enable us to meet the urgent needs of those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake City while also ensuring minimal community impact.”

The plan, she said, is to have the campground open by “some point” this winter. Officials plan for the camp to temporarily serve up to 50 people at 600 West and 300 South.

In June, the City Council included money for sanctioned camping in the city’s annual budget. Council Chair Darin Mano said in a statement Thursday that the project still has the full commitment of the council.

“As with any pilot project, there are many lessons to be learned,” he said, “and this is merely one of the first.”