SALT LAKE CITY — The mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County would become members of the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee and the state would create a "Homeless to Housing Reform Account" under legislation introduced Wednesday.
HB436, sponsored by Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, would appropriate $10 million to the account to be awarded as grants to help meet sheltering, housing or other needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Under the legislation, the committee would prioritize projects or contracts that have "significant additional or matching funds from a private organization or local government entity," the bill states.
The funds are intended to be used for projects that target subpopulations of people experiencing homelessness such as families, victims of domestic violence, youths, veterans, and single men and women.
The legislation also calls for performance measures and reporting requirements for government or nonprofit entities that receive funding, an approach championed by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' collective impact initiatives.
"We're delighted with Rep. Gibson's bill. He's working very closely with us since the beginning of the legislative session," McAdams said.
The legislation acknowledges the complexity of homelessness, which is a statewide issue, he said.
"In order to make progress, we need coordination in all levels of government. So the fact that the state recognizes that, the importance of having city and county cooperation, is a big step. We were very happy that they're reaching out and recognizing that as well," McAdams said.
The legislation also encourages statewide strategies that prevent homelessness, including affordable housing, he said.
Salt Lake County, meanwhile, occupies a unique position as the state's primary provider of homeless services.
"Salt Lake County has just under 40 percent of the statewide population, but we are over 70 percent of our state's homeless population. A lot of people, when they become homeless for one reason or another, they migrate to Salt Lake County. The people who we are serving in our homeless services system are residents from across the state of Utah," McAdams said.
Weber County is the next largest provider of services to people experiencing homelessness. In conversations with stakeholders there, there is agreement that there needs to be coordination of the respective homeless services systems, the Salt Lake County mayor said.
"Homeless individuals go back and forth between the services in Weber County and the services in Salt Lake County. Better data sharing and better data coordination is going to be very important," McAdams said.
While Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City asked the Utah Legislature for a $27 million to realign shelter services, stakeholders understood the funding would be incremental, starting with the $10 million appropriation under HB436, McAdams said.
"Rep. Gibson has done a good job of fitting it in in a tough budget year," he said.
While Salt Lake County taxpayers contribute to homeless service delivery, there is an acute need for state investment in emergency shelters, McAdams said.
The Road Home's community shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande St. is in a building that is more than 60 years old.
"It's been used as an emergency shelter for 30 years. It's a well-loved, well-worn facility. It's seen better days. It's in need of an investment," McAdams said.
"Do we invest in away that's consistent with a model of 30 years ago, or is there a new model we want to move to? We've answered that question."
In 2015, two groups of volunteers spent nearly a year studying homeless services and the location of homeless service providers in the Salt Lake area.
In December, the Collective Impact on Homelessness Steering Committee appointed by McAdams and Salt Lake City's Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission, appointed by then-Mayor Ralph Becker, delivered joint recommendations.
There was overwhelming support for a scattered-sites approach to future homeless facilities. The groups also recommended facilities and programs tailored to subpopulations of people experiencing homelessness.
Matthew Rojas, communications director for Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, said the collective impact approach "is a complete shift in thinking how we address this problem."
City officials hope state lawmakers get behind HB436, he said.
"For years, the city has been doing most of the heavy lifting with regard to homeless services. We're looking forward to a Wasatch Front-wide solution," Rojas said.
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