SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah committee overseeing the construction of shelters for the homeless approved a new shelter in South Salt Lake City on Monday despite protests from the city’s mayor and residents that it would hurt their community.
The State Homeless Coordinating Committee approved the location, which sits in a vacant lot in South Salt Lake near the county’s jail.
The site was recommended by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who was assigned by the state with finding a third shelter, in addition to two sites in Salt Lake City.
The three homeless resource centers are part of a plan to replace an overcrowded shelter in downtown Salt Lake City that officials hope to close in 2019.
Though the committee approved the South Salt Lake location, it must still sign off on a more detailed plan sometime in the months ahead that will lay out the designs and operations for the shelters.
South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood told the panel that the shelter would hamper economic development, a parkway and neighborhoods in her city.
South Salt Lake already shoulders a disproportionate amount of county facilities, including several jails and juvenile treatment centers, she said.
Wood also said the location in her city isn’t ideal for the homeless because it’s about a 45 minute bus and light rail ride from other homeless services in downtown Salt Lake City.
“We deserve more and the homeless deserve more,” Wood said.
Cindy Jones, a South Salt Lake resident, agreed with the mayor and asked for officials to pick another location.
“We are not saying not in my backyard,” Wood said. “What we are saying to you, is our backyard is full.”
McAdams settled on South Salt Lake after looking at more than 20 locations, including two locations much farther south of Salt Lake City in suburban Draper that resulted in a contentious hearing in which residents booed a homeless man who pleaded for understanding and threatened to impeach that city’s mayor, who offered up his city for a shelter.
The South Salt Lake site, near the Salt Lake County Jail and Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, is owned by a nonprofit organization. That means the city collects no property taxes on the land, so the city would not face a loss in taxable property if a homeless shelter is put up, McAdams said.
McAdams said he would lobby for the county council to open a new library in South Salt Lake if it gets the shelter, plus additional open space and transportation investments.
State lawmakers have set aside about $20 million over the past two years to pay for two new 200-bed homeless centers in Salt Lake City and this third one in Salt Lake County that could have up to 300 beds.
Salt Lake City originally planned to add four homeless centers, but officials announced earlier this year that only two would be built there.
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