Recent controversy over efforts to help the homeless and curb alcohol abuse signifies there is a "glimmer of hope' for solving street problems in Salt Lake City, Mayor Palmer DePaulis says.
DePaulis made this observation while discussing a protest by a group of homeless people who object to a program to pass out a panhandler's card instead of money to people who ask for money on the street and a ban on fortified wine at downtown liquor stores.The mayor has been under fire for the fortified wine sales ban at three state liquor agencies in the city. Some police officials say the ban has only exported alcohol-related problems to other cities.
But DePaulis said the controversies have refocused attention on the city's homeless problem and could lead to more solutions. "Maybe we're engendering a kernel of some kind of hope," DePaulis told the Mayor's Action Committee on Street Problems.
DePaulis also announced the formation of the committee's jobs and housing subcommittee to pursue the next phase of the city's homeless plan.
The first phase centered on construction of a $3.4 million homeless men's and families' shelter, nearing completion at 210 S. Rio Grande.
The next phase is to provide "transitional housing" for the homeless while they look for jobs and a route back into the mainstream, DePaulis said.
Among the things DePaulis wants to see emerge from the jobs and housing subcommittee is a plan by the city's Housing Authority to expand its scope, which now includes providing low-income housing, to provide transitional housing. The Housing Authority has access to federal grant money through a program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
DePaulis said he would also encourage the subcommittee to work closely with members of the temporarily defunct homeless advocacy group at The Inn, which recently closed down its facilities at 432 W. Third South.
The Inn, which housed a group calling itself the Homeless Organization for People Everywhere, could focus its efforts more on finding employment for the homeless, the mayor said.
The mayor also recommended to staff of the State Alcoholic Control Commission at the meeting that an experimental three-month ban on fortified wine sales at three liquor stores be extended until June. Fortified wine is wine strengthened with potent grain alcohol.
The ban was instituted July 1 and was extended by the State Liquor Control Commission until Sept. 27 to curb alcohol-related disturbances reported by businessmen near a liquor store at 205 W. 400 South.
Figures compiled by the Salt Lake police show no significant decrease in the number of public intoxication arrests in the area compared to last year. But area businessman said at the meeting that there has been marked improvement.
"We almost think we've moved to another planet,' said businessman Keith Gustavesen, referring to changes for the better in patterns of alcohol-related incidents.
Ken Wynn, a state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department official, reported sales of fortified wine sales have climbed as much as 20 percent at stores where the ban is not in effect. "Bootleggers' likely are buying cases of wine at the stores and selling wine in the downtown area, he said.
Murray City Police Detective Paul Jacobs said public intoxication arrests near a liquor store which bootleggers frequent in Murray are up 100 percent - although only 30 total arrests were made over a three-month period this year.
Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Mac Connole said West Valley City police are also reporting increases in alcohol-related problems near a liquor store in their city believed to be brought on by the downtown ban.
Fortified wines are also banned at 54 N. Eighth West and 1457 S. Main.