Mendenhall proposes $6 million to build 400 new housing units for Salt Lake homeless

Sep 13, 2022, 5:20 PM | Updated: 7:17 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Standing together Tuesday afternoon, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the state outlined steps to address the crisis of homelessness in our communities as Utah heads into colder months.

Those housing solutions, permanent and transitional, begin with major investments at each level of government. Winter overflow beds will likely be the most immediate need.

The mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County stood with the state homeless services coordinator to outline how those communities will house an ever-increasing number of people living on the streets. Collaboration, they agree, is the key to providing supportive housing for the homeless.

“We are taking a monumental step forward for people to call a place home,” said Erin Mendenhall, mayor of Salt Lake City.

At the same time, the demand for affordable, and transitional supportive housing keeps growing.

“Increasingly, there are more people in need of a place to call home than there are housing options, or at many moments in the year, even more spaces than the resource centers can hold,” Mendenhall said.

Since the downtown shelter closed in late 2019, there’s been a shortfall in the system that houses those who are homeless. Salt Lake County has seen a significant rise in homelessness since the beginning of the pandemic.

Last year, more than 17,000 people accessed the homeless system statewide. So, it is working. But in January, as many as 3,700 people were living on the streets on any given night.

Mayor Mendenhall Tuesday proposed a $6 million investment by the city for more than 400 permanent housing units to be developed by April. That’s permanent housing in addition to more than 340 overflow beds to be available this fall and winter.

“It’s the largest single-year increase in permanent and transitional housing in the city’s history,” Mendenhall said. “We are making this happen. Not one of us. All of us, together.”

If the Salt Lake City Council approves, the $6 million grant program would enable providers to apply to build developments that include at least 90 units of permanent, supportive, and transitional housing each. The goal is to have those facilities open by April.

“We haven’t had anything like this before. It takes a partnership like you see today between state and local governments to make this kind of thing happen,” said Wayne Niederhauser, Utah Homeless Services Coordinator.

That investment would bolster $20 million in affordable housing recently committed by the county.

“The investments over the past year truly are groundbreaking. We’re able to channel resources from the federal government,” said Jenny Wilson, mayor of Salt Lake County.

In addition, $55 million of state money was distributed to counties statewide last week.

“Housing with supportive services is key to addressing our homeless situation here in the state,” Niederhauser said.

Each partner today acknowledged good progress, with more work to be done in the years ahead.

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Mendenhall proposes $6 million to build 400 new housing units for Salt Lake homeless