It is impossible to get everyone indoors during the winter if a community does not have enough beds in its emergency shelter and interim housing system. That is why the Faith and Advocacy Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness has been very supportive of efforts to open two new homeless shelters in Salt Lake County this year-- one for medically vulnerable people and seniors in Sandy and one for families children in South Salt Lake City. Both of these new shelters will be located in buildings formerly used as hotels which will enable the people living in them to have more privacy and dignity than is possible in traditional homeless shelters.
We circulated clergy sign on letters supporting both of these new facilities and are very excited by recent reporting in the Salt Lake Tribune stating that the facility for medically vulnerable people is on track to open before the end of this month. No community as affluent as ours should fail to create a safe space indoors for people who are too frail to work. The formal zoning proposal for the new family shelter has still not been submitted but we continue to hope that this new facility will open before the end of this winter.
As pleased as we are that millions of dollars in state funding have made these new facilities possible, our state has still not caught up with the surge in need for homeless services created by the 20 percent increase in average rents in the year 2021. That shocking one-year rent increase made housing completely unaffordable to thousands of low income households in Utah in a way that will, by itself, cause homelessness to increase for the next few years.
That is why it is encouraging that Governor Cox's proposed budget the upcoming fiscal year includes funding for four new homeless shelters. Two of those shelters will be noncongregate facilities in which each household has its own room-- like the new facilities opening in Sandy and South Salt Lake City. The other two shelters would be low barrier facilities for people with addiction and behavioral health issues who have trouble staying in other shelters.
The Governor says his goal is to create enough space indoors with these new shelters that no person will be forced to sleep outside. This is an ambitious goal and so we have invited him, or his representative, to come to our Faith, Hunger and Homelessness Day at the Utah Capitol on January 18 to explain how his various proposals for reducing homelessness can make that ambitious goal a reality.
If you agree that no person should have to sleep outdoors in a state as prosperous as ours then please make plans to attend Faith, Hunger and Homelessness Day on the morning of January 18, 2024. We will be meeting inside the Capitol Building in the Board Room-- which is on the east end of the Rotunda.
One additional, very important, note: with the ongoing construction at the Capitol Complex it is going to be very important that people plan to carpool to the Capitol Building on January 18. If your congregation or organization is willing to share parking space to facilitate carpooling please let us know as soon as possible.