This past month members of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance Executive Board toured homeless service facilities in downtown Salt Lake City. This tour gave a firsthand, humanizing view to leaders of our state’s business community who have played an active and vocal role on this and other important issues.

The issues of homelessness and panhandling have become inseparable to the public and impacted communities. In the past several years we have supported proactive communication efforts led by the Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) and Downtown Alliance to educate the public about the importance of supporting community organizations that are dedicated to helping the homeless and ending panhandling. We have also supported fair enforcement of existing ordinances and laws that curtail aggressive panhandling.

However, addressing the issues of homelessness is a much larger economic and moral challenge, and our community is better prepared than most to find systemic and collaborative solutions. In the past year major milestones and efforts have been made to address this issue, including $27 million in legislative appropriation over three years for what is truly a statewide issue; a commission by Salt Lake City to determine the best types of homeless services; the opening of the Midvale family shelter to move families out of the Road Home at Rio Grande; and, most recently, Salt Lake County’s leadership in developing a collective impact model and comprehensive plan focused on solving homelessness.

Salt Lake County’s plan to minimize homelessness provides the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of improvements to our services, as well as mitigates the one-size-fits-all framework of previous service implementation that does not combat the modern challenges of homelessness. The plan prioritizes solutions to:

  • Develop and support two emergency resource facilities, one for single men and one for single women.
  • Develop and support a family and community resource center that provides housing as well as education, health and employment services.
  • Develop and support a coordinated entry system, common assessment and referral tool, and “no wrong door” policy.
  • Salt Lake County “Homes Not Jail” program.
  • Increase affordable housing availability.
  • Develop and implement a 10 year initiative to end child homelessness.

New facilities are fundamental to the long term solutions addressing homelessness. However, where the new facilities will be located is up to Salt Lake City officials, following their public process, which is designed to gather feedback on possible sites.

Recognizing the need to address this issue from a business and community perspective, the Salt Lake Chamber, in conjunction with the the Downtown Alliance Board, has moved to support the plan formally. Additionally, the Chamber continues to have it as a priority in our annual Public Policy Guide.
We would encourage you to review the plan and urge your local elected officials to continue on focusing on their important roles in planning and funding the facilities, services, housing and long-term strategies to address homelessness.