Over a year ago, Salt Lake County’s mayor Ben McAdams made the controversial decision to build a homeless shelter in South Salt Lake at the end of a dead-end road next to a juvenile detention facility. He didn’t have much of a choice; he had to agree to build it somewhere.
South Salt Lake was not pleased. At first, Mayor Cherie Wood proclaimed she would fight the decision, especially after she found out the facility would house only single men. She has since relented.
But residents next to the proposed site still aren’t happy, and those residents, in addition to the city, are resisting the timeline of starting construction by the end of June. If construction doesn’t start, the shelter won’t be complete by the date The Road Home is expected to close in July 2019.
But South Salt Lake is still fighting over permits and water lines and sidewalks.
If they don’t stick to the timeline, they risk losing funding and control. The state is more than ready to swoop in and deal with it themselves.
No one actually volunteered to host the three shelters that needed to be built in preparation for The Road Home shelter’s proposed closing. Well, the mayor of Draper, Todd Walker, did magnanimously volunteer, but his constituents rallied against him and he rescinded his offer.
So kudos to South Salt Lake for taking one for the team. The state, and McAdams, promised to make it right with them, including a new public library and investments in transportation and infrastructure, which we argued a year ago would be completely appropriate.
The county and state need to also be fair to surrounding residents, some who’ve lived in their homes for decades.
But urban sprawl means that things change. And downtown Salt Lake has singly born the brunt of the state’s homeless problem for long enough.
There are no easy solutions. But this problem isn’t the same as the resident is facing in Davis County whose land the city wants to use for soccer fields. We have a homeless problem. And the concentration of that problem in one area, like the downtown Salt Lake, has caused unnecessary blight and crime.
State leaders have supported the effort to open shelters around the county with more than just words – tens of millions of dollars, to be exact.
It’s going to happen. South Salt Lake should help the process, not hinder it.