Salt Lake County mayors submit winter shelter plans

Aug 1, 2023, 3:42 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s August, yet some Utah mayors are already looking ahead to winter shelters.

By law, cities are required to coordinate a plan to set up temporary winter overflow shelters.

Tuesday, the mayors announced a first – submitting that plan – earlier than ever before. This comes as some leaders faced criticism last winter for not acting sooner.

Mayors from Salt Lake County, including Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, West Valley City Mayor Karen Lang, and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall – and advocates for Utah’s unsheltered stood united at Pioneer Park.

They submitted a plan to the state legislature that calls for more than 600 additional beds at temporary overflow shelters this winter.

“The plan we have this year is far more robust than last year in terms of number of beds and different facilities,” Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the plan is more inclusive. “The fact that we’re standing here in the middle of August with a plan that has been submitted to the state of Utah is evidence of partnership and what collaboration can look like.”

Leaders stopped short of stating specifically what is in the plan.

“There’s a lot of details that need to be reviewed and we want to take some time to do that,” said Wayne Niederhauser, state homeless coordinator.

They cited real property and money concerns.

“I also don’t want to create a stir in a particular neighborhood where we may not actually be doing something because we don’t have the funding,” Silvestrini said.

Here’s what they did share:

In addition to the 600 beds, there will be a new code blue volunteer program. When the weather conditions are 15 degrees or below, volunteers will check in on folks and make sure they have shelter and resources. If needed, they’ll open additional facilities.

They also proposed keeping overflow shelters to stay open for 24 hours.

“This is not a victory celebration today. This is not a victory lap. We still have a lot of work to do,” Silvestrini said.

Niederhauser said the state will review the plan and report back on August 10.

A big component of this plan is the people who live in communities where overflows could be located and when they’ll get a chance to weigh in on the final decision.

For now, the group expects to have the plan in place by late October.

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Salt Lake County mayors submit winter shelter plans