LOCAL NEWS

Gov. Cox to ask for $187 million in budget to better address homelessness

Dec 4, 2023, 12:47 PM | Updated: 12:51 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox says the state of Utah has been handling the growing homelessness problem in the wrong way for decades, and he’d like to get to work on fixing it. Surrounded by various city and county leaders outside a community treatment facility, he announced plans to ask the state legislature for $187 million to go toward various aspects of the problem.

“This is the first time in our state’s history that we’ve brought everyone together to understand every single facet of homelessness and what’s driving it and where the gaps are,” Cox said.

Cox’s plan, which will be submitted as part of his budget proposal, includes putting $128 million toward making more emergency shelter space available. He’d also like to put $8 million toward improving mental health resources, including making more hospital beds available. The plan would offer some student loan repayment programs to encourage more people to become counselors and look at changing the barrier to entry in state licensing requirements, adding that he believes Utah needs some 8,000 more mental health professionals than there are now.

“If you can treat it early, then it doesn’t progress and people can move on and get on with their lives,” Cox added. “If it remains untreated, it can get worse until you must be hospitalized or you can only work with a psychiatrist in a brick-and-mortar building.”

Several mayors and county leaders who were in attendance voiced their support for the governor’s plan.

“Historically, nobody’s really owned the homelessness issue,” said Salt Lake County Council Chair Aimee Winder Newton. “It’s kind of been left to cities to look at. You know, the county does behavioral health. We have the jail and the criminal justice system. So, you know, there’s some partnerships there. But to have the state step up and provide a funding source to really help us fix this is critical.”

Pamela Atkinson, longtime homeless advocate and special advisor to the governor, voiced her enthusiasm for the plan too.

“This is absolutely brilliant. There’s no doubt about it,” Atkinson said. “What the governor is proposing should have been proposed some years ago because housing is such a problem, mental illness is such a problem. But so many people out there have these needs and we haven’t been able to meet them. We’ve met a certain amount of needs, there’s no doubt about it.”

Gov. Spencer Cox says the state has been handling homelessness the wrong way for decades, and he'd like lawmakers to approve a major chunk of funding to fix it. (KSL TV) Gov. Spencer Cox says the state has been handling homelessness the wrong way for decades, and he'd like lawmakers to approve a major chunk of funding to fix it. (KSL TV) Longtime homeless advocate and special advisor to the governor, Pamela Atkinson voiced her enthusiasm for the plan too. (KSL TV) Gov. Spencer Cox says the state has been handling homelessness the wrong way for decades, and he'd like lawmakers to approve a major chunk of funding to fix it. (KSL TV) Gov. Spencer Cox says the state has been handling homelessness the wrong way for decades, and he'd like lawmakers to approve a major chunk of funding to fix it. Salt Lake County Council Chair Aimee Winder Newton. (KSL TV)

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Gov. Cox to ask for $187 million in budget to better address homelessness