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The City Journals

Road Home, UPD and Midvale meet regularly to discuss needs of homeless

Aug 16, 2021 09:53AM ● By Erin Dixon

The Road Home has been a permanent resource since 2017. (File Photo City Journals)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Last fall, media covered a disagreement between Midvale and the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness. The Coalition was looking for temporary winter housing and a Midvale hotel made it on the list. Then there was some push back from the city. 

Were the negative reports against Midvale city true? Is the city  unwelcoming to people experiencing homelessness? 

The Road Home family center was made permanent in Midvale four years ago. Because of this, Midvale City spearheads a monthly meeting with The Road Home and any other interested parties to address homeless needs.  

Regular participants in this meeting include, The Road Home, Unified Police Department, Unified Fire Authority, Midvale mayor, city staff and lobbyists, Canyon School District, The United Way, Utah Community Action, The Boys and Girls Club, Salt Lake County’s Tyler Library and Sen. Kathleen Riebe.

Patrick O’Brien, Midvale’s RDA Housing Manager, regularly organizes and conducts the meeting.

“A lot of that was miscommunication from different media sources that just didn’t know what we were doing and what was going on from the coalition standpoint,” O’Brien said. 

The meeting has an open invitation to anyone who has an investment in the homeless population. 

“It’s open to businesses to participate,” O’Brian said. “As business issues fizzled out because of the active community- and business-oriented policing from UPD, we haven’t had any businesses attending our meeting.”

During the July meeting, the group began sharing efforts and needs. The Road Home reported an increase of families needing shelter after school was released for the summer. The Boys and Girls club reported on how many children they serve, and events they are doing for them within the city, including a mobile vaccination truck and counseling. 

Sarah Strang, deputy director of crisis services at the Road Home, spoke of the relationship with UPD.  

“The partnerships we have with UPD for emergency response and providing an additional layer of safety and security . . . is hugely important,” Strang said. “In the past two years we’ve really begun to strategize and work together in ways we hadn’t worked together in the past.”

Midvale UPD Precinct Chief Randy Thomas elaborated.

“We can, as police, search bags and maintain some of the policies that really benefit those clients within [The Road Home],” Thomas said. 

UPD also provides a drug dog to prevent illegal drugs from being brought into the shelter. 

“Instead of getting a large scary pointy-eared maneater, we got an 8 pound terrier that is just a goofy little dog that can detect drugs,” Thomas said. 

Dave Spatafore, lobbyist for Midvale, keeps the group informed about state decisions that have to do with the homeless population. There may be some changes in funding from the state. 

“If it happens at all it will happen in 2022,” Spatafore said. 

What really happened last year? In the fall, the concerns Midvale cited for hosting more homeless had to do with funding, safety, legality and transparency. 

“When we took the adult men's winter shelter, it’s been nearly 20 years now, that was to be a winter only, and it was for a while,” Mayor Robert Hale said in a council meeting last November “Then it became by state edict a year-round situation, and then we took over the family, children and parents. I don’t know of any that have been winter shelters that have not transformed into year round.” 

Funding from the state has been a problem in recent years. 

“We were underfunded $958,000 in 2019 and $328,000 in 2020,” Hale said. 

Ultimately, the coalition found housing somewhere else in the city for the winter of 2020. 

“Millcreek City and Salt Lake City stepped up to help us find overflow shelter,” Jean Hill, co-chair for the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness said.. “In Millcreek, we had a 60-bed facility operated by Switchpoint. In Salt Lake City, we converted a hotel into a 120-bed facility, also operated by Switchpoint, where individuals and couples were able to stay.”