War Brewing Over New Homeless Sites

SOUTH SALT LAKE (ABC4 Utah) South Salt Lake city officials basically declared war Monday against the county and the state over a new homeless resource center that could come to their city.

The county last week selected 5 locations as possible sites for a new homeless resource center to be built outside Salt Lake City. 3 are in West Valley and 2 are in South Salt Lake.

"I will fight it, I will fight it," says South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood. She was flanked by other city officials, police and firefighters and business owners.

The Mayor says the West Valley sites make more sense because that city has a much larger tax base than South Salt Lake.

She just won't let it happen. "The two sites proposed in South Salt Lake are not suitable for either our community or the homeless population," says Mayor Wood. "We all deserve better."

The two sites in South Salt Lake are near 3300 South and 1100 West and near 3100 South Main Street.

Police worry about increased crime. Officer Gary Keller says his department is already pushed to the limit and with new, possible crime connected to a new shelter they might have to hire an additional 14 officers.

"We take on any challenge," says Keller, "but this is just going be a great challenge for our law enforcement to provide services to make it safe, not only for the homeless people, but the residents and the current population we have." 

"It's heartbreaking," says Lexi Aerakis. Her family owns the Crown Burger just down the street from one of the proposed sites. "It scares us. It's going to really impact us. It's going to impact our clients."

The real homeless point person in Salt Lake County government is Shaleane Gee, Director of Special Projects. She totally expected this kind of fighting when the 5 sites were announced. "We knew this would be difficult."

But she says 2 upcoming open houses at the State Capitol will provide a public forum to help those involved understand the process and how the new resource centers will be different than the current model downtown at The Road Home.

Gee thinks things can be resolved peacefully. "We really do think that we can have an honest and open knowledge exchange. We are looking forward to that as people bring to us what they uniquely know about their community and we want to hear it and we want to address it."

She also says if someone has a better idea for a better location the county will consider it.

A final decision is expected by the end of March.


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