Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why the 2017 Homeless bill should have been amended before passage

In 2016 I voted FOR 2 Homeless bills, designed to help the homeless and AGAINST the one taking away Midvale's right to have any say in the shelter they had being year round or not. This last year, 2017, I was not in the House of Representatives and did NOT vote for the bill taking way West Valley's or South Salt Lake's ability to have any control as to where Mayor McAdams wanted to put the new shelter.  The proposed locations were terrible. 

As a Rotary member, we have been helping a center with a great record of helping single parents get housing and employment.

After the bill passed in 2017, I provided specific location issues for sites proposed, and even the size of some of them. See:

I didn't say it shouldn't be in any one city, including ours. I personally spoke to Mayor McAdams more than once on this issue and attended all the public meetings. Each city had a place that would actually work, but they were not asked as I stated. Proposing on locating a homeless shelter next to a school for teen age girls that were expecting or recently became a single parent was more than silly, and that was just one of the several locations proposed. The Legislature voting to give the county mayor that power was dangerous. (Disclaimer, Sen. McAdams was the senator sponsor of several of my bills in 2011 and 2012 including my bi-partisan congressional district redistricting map proposal).

Did anyone realize that the  H.B. 441 Housing and Homeless Reform Initiative Amendments was going to be a bad bill and not just a funding bill? Yes. 

West Valley City officials told their representatives in the House and Senate that the Homeless Bill had this problem and not to vote for it as drafted.  All House Members voted for the bill initially, (one in Utah County eventually voted no) including the ones that heard George Chapman in the House Standing Committee tell them what the bill would do to city rights and that it needed to be amended. Our local State House Member voted for the bill.

One West Valley City State Senator, Sen. Thatcher, brought this issue up to the Senate during floor debate and had the bill passage put on pause, (circled) until the Governor's office promised that the cities would not be railroaded if the bill passed. It is surprising the House didn't have the same discussion.When that did happen, Sen. Thatcher was one of the first to cry foul.

Now that the proposal is to build the facility near the Jordan River Parkway, there is a new proposal to turn the Parkway over to the State as a State Park, with the main reason the Homeless near the river. It would have been better not to locate the facilities near the river in the first place.

It there any one thing that started the problem to where Homelessness in the areat got out of hand? 
I believe yes.

Many of the homeless that were downtown until the recent relocation were from out of state, and they were sent by other cities to Salt Lake City when past Mayor Becker announced: in 2014 to 2015:

"We are 90 percent of the way with the housing-first model toward eliminating homelessness for our chronically homeless in this city. It is an incredible national achievement that is recognized every day."—Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, at the Poverty Summit, Aug. 29, 2015

Utah has its own share of problems in this area, without trying to solve it for other places in the nation. We will do better to follow programs that work, such as the Family Support Center LifeStart Village and not removing state and county funding for it and providing for programs that have not been tested or have proven to fail.