Already closed to vehicles, the half-block of Rio Grande Street in front of The Road Home’s downtown shelter will be closed to pedestrians, too.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski leased the street to the state on Thursday, having been satisfied that the public had weighed in through an online survey and a community discussion held Wednesday night at The Gateway mall.
More than 2,000 people had participated in the survey as of Thursday, according to a news release, and 85 percent of respondents said the closure would increase the safety of those experiencing homelessness.
Cement barriers have prevented vehicular traffic since last week. The closure to pedestrians will occur as soon as the state signs the lease, said city spokesman Matthew Rojas.
The lease will expire Nov. 30 unless an extension is approved by the City Council, which plans to hold a public hearing Sept. 19. The extension would keep the street in state hands until after the closure of The Road Home’s 210 S. Rio Grande St. shelter — currently planned for July 2019.
Crossroads Urban Center and Salt Lake County have previously called for the street closure, but the idea finally gained momentum as part of the $67 million Operation Rio Grande — a planned two-year crackdown on lawlessness around the shelter.
House Speaker Greg Hughes has outlined a vision of an enclosed courtyard between homeless service providers. The area would be managed by the state and provide a “safe space” for people trying to access homeless services, while making the job simpler for officers on the hunt for drug dealers.
To access the courtyard, people would need a “coordinated services” ID card. Some, including the ACLU of Utah, have expressed concern that the IDs will become little more than a tool for law enforcement, though details of the program have not yet been released.