Midvale city council discusses temporary winter homeless shelterNov 30, 2020 02:45PM ● By Erin Dixon
By Erin Dixon | [email protected]
Early November, Midvale City received news they may be host to a new temporary winter homeless shelter. The state’s organization Shelter the Homeless and the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness have looked for temporary winter sheltering for the past several months. There are no concrete plans to house more homeless in Midvale. The coalition is currently considering other possible locations.
Mayor Robert Hale was apprehensive. “With so much territory in the Salt Lake Valley, why would we have two really close here when no other city has two except Salt Lake and those are widely separated. I expressed my concerns.”
The following article includes quotes from a discussion held in Midvale City Council in early November, and statements from Jean Hill, co-chair for the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness.
Hale was concerned that the city may not receive enough funding to offset potential additional costs this winter shelter may bring.
“We were underfunded $958,000 in 2019 and $328,000 in 2020,” Hale said.
Midvale City Manager Kane Loader said that supplemental funding for homeless sheltering will continue.
“The county and state are providing some of the funding for winter overflow,” Hill said.
“We offered to provide two security guards at the hotel (La Quinta) to ensure the safety of our clients and other patrons at the hotel,” Hill said.
Hale said, “They say they’re going to have their own private security force. That brings up issues that I can’t even imagine in how our Unified Police Department is going to work with those.”
How long could the shelter be in Midvale?
“When we took the adult men's winter shelter, it’s been nearly 20 years now, that was to be a winter only and it was for a while. Then it became by state edict a year-round situation and then we took over the family, children and parents,” Hale said. “I don’t know of any that have been winter shelters that have not transformed into year round.”
Hill stated that, “This is a short-term use from October to April. We would provide case managers and meals to the clients in the hotel as well as transportation to Salt Lake City every day so there should be minimal impact to local businesses or the housing units.”
Did Midvale know this was coming?
“Midvale appointed Patrick O'Brian to participate in our overflow planning discussions. This was not sprung on the city. Hale participated in a walk-through of the site last week,” Hill said.
Hale confirmed he was involved in discussions and the walk-through, but was at the same time vocal with his concerns.
Loader said that, “We thought they were backing off because of our concerns. They completely ignored those. We got an email that basically said, “up yours with your conditions, we’re moving ahead.”
Councilmember Dustin Gettel was concerned that Midvale had been singled out and that other cities were not willing to house the shelter.
“There was apparently one [city] that the director wouldn’t name, it’s just a very odd process that’s happening,” Gettel said.
“It is a very real impacted people who need a home and heat, it’s just this dangerous game that’s being played saying there are eight locations and one they don’t want to name. That’s not a transparent process.”
Hill responded by saying, ”Midvale's reaction after the fact is one reason we do not want to name other cities being considered until we have signed agreements in place. We are working with the mayor of the other city, just as we tried to do with Midvale.”
Weather bring urgent need
Gettel affirmed that his reasoning for not wanting a shelter was not motivated by a distaste for the homeless.
“What feels unfair to us as a city pales in comparison with having to live in winter during a pandemic on the streets of Salt Lake County,” Gettel said.
Hill asserted that there is no longer time for discussion about location. A place needed to be chosen immediately.
“Winter is here. People are showing up at the Weigand Day Center cold and wet from nights on the street. We had a long, thorough process to determine sites and are out of time. We simply cannot play political games on the backs of people with no options seeking shelter,” Hill said.
Matt Dahl, assistant city manager, discussed with the coalition that the zone where they were looking does not allow a shelter. At the city level, this could jeopardize the business license of the operator of the hotel.
“What is being proposed conflicts with the current land use ordinances in that zone. If they were to do what they are proposing means that it would not be operating as a hotel and more clearly breaking their ordinance,” Dahl said.
Hill responded saying that the hotel would not officially be converted to a homeless shelter, but would still just be a hotel stay each night for individuals who need a place to stay.
“It sounds like the city is saying even if a room is paid for, if the person staying in it is homeless, it violates city code. We would be paying for rooms for people to stay in—a typical activity at a hotel. As long as they aren't engaged in illegal activity, I'm not sure why any city would object to a private business accepting homeless guests,” Hill said.