A wave of exasperation seems to have swayed another local leader’s position on a contested homeless service center. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams proposed a change in course Tuesday morning to build housing units in place of a homeless shelter on Simpson Avenue.
One of four proposed homeless shelters, 653 E. Simpson Ave. is the most hotly opposed by residents and businesses in the neighborhood. Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall and Lisa Adams have also dropped their support for that location.
But as of now, the city is sticking to the plan. David Litvack, the city mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said McAdams presented the idea to Biskupski late Monday evening, and the administration hasn’t had a chance to vet it.
“From our perspective right now, we’re continuing to move forward with four resource centers, four sites,” he said.
Litvack was one of several city staff fielding questions Tuesday afternoon at an open house. The meeting offered residents another opportunity to ask questions, and voice their concerns vocally or on comment cards.
More than 100 people filed into a room at Salt Lake Community College. Several people sported no-shelter-on-Simpson stickers on their shirts. Two similar public workshops were scheduled 6-8 p.m.Tuesday evening at Salt Lake Community College and 7-9 p.m. Jan. 18 at Nibley Park Elementary School.
Chris Sveiven, who lives with his young family less than 100 yards from the shelter site, said he supports the city’s efforts to help the homeless, but the Simpson Avenue location was hastily picked.
“Mayor Biskupski has dug in on this because it was her bad decision,” he said.
While on one end of the room city staff talked about the selection process and potential services offered, the opposite side was seeking comments on the sites’ designs.
Nick Norris, planning department director, is leading the design team for the sites, which in addition to Simpson Avenue, will be located at 131 E. 700 South, 648 W. 100 South and 275 W. High Ave. Breaking ground on the sites is several steps and spools of red tape away, though. “Our task [right now] is coming up with zoning rules to apply to homeless resource centers,” Norris said.
If there is a smoking area, one zoning rule could be that it not be next to someone’s house, for example. Norris said they are welcoming all input.
“Everyone has been very respectful,” he said.
Perhaps respectful, not all attendees were satisfied with the open-house format.
“This is what we call a placate and stupefy meeting,” said Robert Breeze, who owns several properties near Simpson Avenue. “The whole purpose of this meeting is to placate and stupefy the public, but we’re not buying it.”
He sat holding a sign that asked for Simpson Avenue opponents to sign up on an email list.