Jun 16, 2023 - Politics

SLC City Council allots $500,000 for possible sanctioned camping

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Salt Lake City Council approved $500,000 toward a potential sanctioned camping grant program, the latest investment by local officials to curb homelessness.

Context: The number of Utahns experiencing homelessness for the first time increased 14% between 2020 and 2021, per a report from the state's Department of Workforce Services.

  • Earlier this year, the state released a multi-year plan identifying public land for "structured" sanctioned encampments by 2025 where there are "elevated numbers of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness."

What they're saying: "There are just more people sleeping outside than we've ever seen in Salt Lake City," Bill Tibbitts, deputy executive director of the Crossroads Urban Center, told Axios.

  • "We are looking at long-term solutions, but we also have to look at short-term solutions," Salt Lake City Council Chair Darin Mano told Axios.
  • While details around the grant program are still being worked out, Mano said he's open to considering temporary zoning ordinances to allow a nonpermanent campsite.

By the numbers: The funding is part of the City Council-approved $448.5 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1.

  • The budget also included $20 million for affordable housing.
  • Tibbitts said unsheltered individuals must have an authorized space to sleep without worrying about losing their belongings if they're asked to leave.
  • While state and local government officials say camp abatements are necessary to preserve public health and safety, critics deem the sweeps inhumane.
  • "While we continue working with the State on its effort to create a more permanent sanctioned encampment, we can potentially explore some smaller pilot projects in the city," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement.

What's next: Funding for a possible program will be placed in a holding account as planning and discussions get underway. Use of the funds will require a future City Council vote.


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