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South Salt Lake Journal

Shelter the Homeless, South Salt Lake at odds over incoming resource center

Aug 02, 2019 11:20AM ● By Bill Hardesty

The men’s Homeless Resource Center located at 3380 S. 1000 West is nearing completion. Opening is planned for mid-September. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The path to open the 300-men Homeless Resource Center, planned for late September or early October, in South Salt Lake City continues to have twist and turns.

In a July 29 email to the City Journals, Preston Cochrane, Executive Director of Shelter the Homeless, wrote, "Our differences with SSL are fundamental—SSL expects a low needs shelter, while we are proposing a low barrier shelter. These fundamental differences are manifested in their proposed conditions, and no amount of negotiation at the staff level seems likely to change SSL’s minds."

A survey of comments made by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, former Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, and the Salt Lake County Commission during the selection process implied the SSL-located center would serve a "low-need" population. This means the notion of a "low-need" population is not only held by SSLC.

Phase II conditional use permit

During the May 22 Shelter the Homeless board meeting, their legal counsel was asked to work with SSLC to approve a conditional use permit. While a building permit was approved by SSLC in May 2018, the conditional use permit is required to allow operations to start. That permit is a tool the city uses to mitigate impacts of any development. For example, a business obtains a conditional use permit for a children's clothing store, which means they can't begin to sell vapor products a year later.

The HRC, version nine of the conditional use permit draft is a hefty 33-page document. It has 156-line items of findings of fact, five items of conclusions of Law, and 21 conditions of approval line items, which have numerous subtopics.

The findings of fact range from the size of the building, including how large each area within the building, to history of the Road Home's facility by the Rio Grande. It outlines the need for infrastructure improvements on 1000 West and lists those improvements, while approved, are not in compliance with city code. Other findings of fact are about issues agreed by Shelter the Homeless such as a maximum residency of 300. They will be assigned a bed in one of six rooms with 50 beds per room. The staff ratio will be 1 staff per every 30 residents and residents will not be forced out of the HRC during the day, as they are currently are.

The conclusions of law state the proposed phase II conditional use permit plan follows zoning and code requirements.

The 21 conditions of approval are more problematic. In this section, the city outlines all conditions which the applicant, Shelter the Homeless, and their agent, The Road Home, must follow. Shelter the Homeless are the owners, and they have contracted with the Road Home to operate the facility. The Road Home is the same organization currently operating a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City.

These conditions cover such issues as intake requirements, the use of illegal drugs on and off the premises, no animals except ADA approved animals, random drug testing, random searches, installation of CCTV, and security on and around the site

Mayor's letter

With the release of the draft, Mayor Cherie Wood also released a letter she sent to  Harris Simmons, chairman of the Shelter the Homeless board. The letter, dated July 18, the letter indicates Shelter the Homeless was asking SSLC to approve the phase II permit by July 19. If this was not done, Shelter the Homeless would pass a resolution that turns the process over to the state. This is a significant step because if the state takes over, the project is not subject to a conditional use permit, which means SSLC loses any say on the matter. The mayor mentioned the conditional use permit would be considered during August. Any consideration of the matter was not on the Aug. 1 planning commission agenda but is planned for the Aug. 14 meeting.

In the letter, Wood states why the permit is so lengthy, "These components of the CUP are essential to the success of the Resource Center. And while the process is not simple or enjoyable, our city is working through issues in good faith with Shelter the Homeless staff, its board members, and legal team. Deadlines have actually been pushed back by Shelter the Homeless, but we are moving forward."

Wood outlines two nonnegotiables. The first focuses on intake requirements.

“...a set of requirements ensuring that all individuals housed at the facility be searched for weapons or drugs prior to entry. We ask that individuals are screened and registered to ensure there are no outstanding arrest warrants that remain unaddressed; that unregistered sex offenders are identified at intake; and that appropriate measures are taken to ensure compliance with the law to clear any warrants or register with the appropriate authorities."

The second nonnegotiable concerns the costs of having the HRC.

"South Salt Lake is asking Shelter the Homeless to reimburse the city for all police, emergency medical and fire personnel deployed in support of the facility,” Wood wrote. “Any legislative appropriation dedicated to reimbursing the city would offset the reimbursement obligation. South Salt Lake’s public safety program is already stretched to provide safety and security for our tax-paying residents. We cannot in good conscience reduce the level of service to our residents to fund negative impacts of the Center.”

She later summarized her concerns in the letter, "Our goal for the conditional use permit is to ensure those promises – that 1) the 1000 West Homeless Resource Center is a safe resource for the men who live there; and 2) that South Salt Lake residents don't suffer the consequences from failure to use reasonable management practices to prevent duplication of The Road Home Shelter."

The mayor felt that approval was on track and deadlines could be met.

Shelter the Homeless response

On July 26, Cochrane, went public about their frustrations working with SSLC, with numerous media outlets reporting the issues. In an email, Cochrane stated, "...a few days ago the STH Board Chair notified Mayor Wood that unless we could immediately resolve a number of remaining hurdles that will otherwise make it impracticable to operate the resource center, STH would need to proceed with actions that would result in the property being conveyed to the State of Utah, which has the authority to establish its own regulations for the operation of the resource center."

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that an email vote by the board was taken the day earlier. While no results are known, both Simmons and Cochrane indicate the board is favoring passage of the resolution. 

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