$27M request for homeless shelters, services presents a 'once-in-a-generation opportunity'
SALT LAKE CITY — A $27 million request to Utah lawmakers to fund shelters and services for people experiencing homelessness presents a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to change the system.
Shaleane Gee, director of special projects and partnerships in Salt Lake County, told members of the Pioneer Park Coalition on Wednesday that the legislative request was the next step after parallel efforts by the county and Salt Lake City studied facilities and services in 2015. Then in December, they delivered their joint recommendations.
"This is a once-in-a-generation request going forward. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the system that we're working with," said Gee, who led Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' Collective Impact on Homelessness Steering Committee.
The request includes $20 million in one-time funding for two new shelters, and $7 million in ongoing funding for prevention programs, services, operation and maintenance. Improving services and facilities for children and families experiencing homelessness is a priority, she said.
Stakeholders in the Homes Initiative met last week and will meet again Thursday to refine the proposal, which also includes "what we’re describing right now as a nonfederal housing assistance program," Gee said.
"This will be a pilot program put together in the state of Utah that is public-private partnership focused on solving some of the housing issues, especially for families and kids and other priority populations," she said.
Gee said the drafting of the bills has not been completed nor have bill numbers been assigned to the proposals.
Last week, McAdams told the Deseret News that one proposal envisions a "metro housing authority trust fund" to allow communities to contribute or pool tax increment funds they are required by the state to set aside for affordable housing projects.
"The fund could then be used throughout the metro area to try to meet some of the affordable housing gaps," McAdams said.
Gee said members of the county's collective impact group and Salt Lake City's Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission — appointed by then-Mayor Ralph Becker — arrived at unanimous consensus in their braided recommendations. Those conclusions included overwhelming support for a scattered-sites approach to future facilities.
The next step is building consensus on the details of the legislative request, she said. Gee invited coalition members to take part in the discussion.
“This is a pretty big deal," said Jonathan Harman, executive director of the Pioneer Park Coalition.
"All the work of both mayors' commissions is culminating into this."
Contributing: Katie McKellar
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