McAdams urges S.L. City Council to back legislative ask to reimagine homeless services
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams on Tuesday asked members of the Salt Lake City Council to join in asking the Utah Legislature for funding and policy changes to realign the region's homeless services.
Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City and other partners are asking the Legislature for nearly $20 million in one-time funding, $7 million in ongoing funding to be combined with a private $10 million fundraising effort to better address needs of various populations of people experiencing homelessness, do more to prevent homelessness and establish smaller, scattered facilities.
"We hope for your support and partnership recognizing that moving the system is going to take time and effort, and we're not going to be able to do it all at once," McAdams said.
The partners will focus on fixable problems and solutions identified in the yearlong study process undertaken by Salt Lake County's Homelessness Services Collective Impact Council and Salt Lake City's Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission.
While the emergency sheltering system has clear pathways to services, more needs to be done to tailor approaches for subpopulations and keep at-risk individuals and families housed.
"We need to do more to prevent homelessness," he said.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said she believes the yearlong study of services and facilities places the city and county in a "prime position" to change and improve how government and private providers deliver services, as well as the community impacts of homelessness.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to really change how we're doing things and create real potential for people to obtain services that enable them to get back to independence," she said.
One significant change, McAdams said, was establishing outcomes that are measurable and evidence-based.
McAdams said Granite School District Superintendent Martin Bates recently told him there are children in the district who have attended seven different schools since the academic year started in August.
"You can imagine what impact that has on child," he said.
But it is also something that can be tracked and hopefully remedied using the best practices backed by research to keep children in the same school for the academic year and more.
Children are among the priority populations identified in the processes. Others include families at risk for homelessness, working families who are homeless, adolescents transitioning into adulthood and single men and women.
City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall questioned whether the very specific needs of subpopulations would get lost in catch-all categories.
"Lumping addicted sex workers with single females doesn't really work," she said.
McAdams said the 13,000 homeless individuals statewide each have "unique circumstances." While most are captured in broad categories, people with specific needs can be elevated or part of subpopulations to better meet their needs, he said.
"We're aware of 23 children of sex workers in the foster care system," McAdams said.
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