A homeless group has presented a Salt Lake City councilman with a petition objecting to the conditions and services they believe will be offered at a $3.4 million homeless shelter under construction in the west-side downtown area.
But Mayor Palmer DePaulis said the criticism was premature and noted that the facility was designed not to be luxurious but to provide emergency housing.Homeless Organization for People Everywhere, a group organized and operated by area homeless people, gave the petition with 100 signatures to Councilman Wayne Horrocks this week.
"Please sign your name if you feel the new shelter will not meet the needs of the homeless in Salt Lake City," the petition read.
Horrocks, who represents District 2 in which many homeless people live, met with HOPE President Nick Geoghan and Vice President Keith DeMarias this week to discuss the petition. Horrocks could not be reached for comment Friday.
In June, mayors from cities across the country lauded the new shelter - under construction at 210 S. Rio Grande St. - as one of the finest in the nation. They learned of the project during the U.S. Conference of Mayors held in Salt Lake City.
But Geoghan complained the facility will only "warehouse" homeless people in crowded, poor conditions with few support services homeless need to get jobs and adjust to society.
What the homeless really want is not only shelter, but also jobs and the opportunity to adjust to life off the streets. "To the homeless, it (the new shelter) is not as comfortable as having a job," he said.
DePaulis said the facility "is not going to be luxurious" but that the building and the health, education and job placement programs associated with it have met "vigorous" state and federal quality standards.
"This is a progressive thing," the mayor said, adding that the city is considering transitional housing for low-income people when the shelter is complete.
Steve Holbrook, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, the private organization administering the shelter's construction, said HOPE's desire for better housing and jobs is understandable. But their complaint leaves only one alternative at present: no shelter.