Millcreek • Worried residents have scattered to a corner of the same small, empty library in Millcreek where some of Utah’s homeless will sleep warm in the worst of winter.
News that this suburban community next to Salt Lake City will house up to 100 homeless adults each night from October or November through mid-April in an overflow shelter at the former Calvin L. Smith Library n is not welcome in many neighborhoods. And it suddenly came to the point of taking many residents and even elected officials by surprise.
“None of us have had this much time,” Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said Thursday night.
This will be the second go-around for the immediate neighborhood near 800 East and 3300 South since hosting shelter at a vacant memory care center a block away in 2020 — as the COVID-19 pandemic- 19 intensified. This establishment attracted a call from the police for the season, but it had 60 beds and this one is larger. There is a school just across the street.
Additionally, like the rest of Salt Lake County, Millcreek residents have seen increased issues with homelessness in general worsening since the coronavirus, with illegal camping, littering, crime, substance abuse, mental illness and human misery and misery more often exposed to the public.
Many who showed up Thursday night at the Old County Library at 810 E. 3300 South for Millcreek’s first hearing on how he will deal with the effects of the shelter were upset.
Brianne Johnson works at 3900 South and said she regularly faces drug use, prostitution and vagrants being escorted out of her building. The concern now is that the refuge will bring more.
“It’s not the homeless situation. It’s the drug,” Johnson said. “I feel like it’s just quadrupled, and it’s all over our face.”
But the public comments weren’t just opposition and pitchforks. Several speakers said they thought it was the compassionate thing to do, to great applause.
Kara Pope, who lives near 1500 East and 3100 South, said “these people are human. You all know that. I think we need to catch our breath and realize that not everyone is a drug addict and not everyone is going to pee in your backyard. There are many people who need help. »
Silvestrini, a second-term mayor, said it directly to the crowd of about 150 concerned residents and business owners, some of them clearly angry and fearful: It’s no longer yes or no under the new short-term term of the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake County. mayors. It is now a discussion of how best Millcreek can cope, he said, “with the least negative impact”.
Then he told Jill’s story.
Volunteering at a nearby food bank for the past few months, Silvestrini’s duty has been to stagger vehicles in a drive-thru line to collect food. He met a teacher who came regularly and obviously lived in his car. He learned that she was a lifelong Millcreek resident. Medical problems left her disabled and she lost her job and then her home.
“I can’t stand the thought of people like Jill wintering in their car or on the street as it freezes over this winter without shelter,” Silvestrini said, clearly emotional. “That’s the humanitarian reason why I believe our city needs to step up.”
No more blaming the problem on Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and Midvale, host to the county’s leading homeless resource centers. “It’s a statewide problem,” the mayor told nervous residents, “and a Millcreek problem.”
The mayor promises the city “is on it”, with Deputy City Manager and Director of Planning Francis Lilly as the main contact with the public. “My role here is to help this neighborhood absorb the impact,” said Lilly, who lives a few blocks away himself. “I’ve seen that happen in the past, and I think we can do it because we’re strong enough.”
Enhanced neighborhood security
Millcreek City Council members and Midvale Mayor Marcus Stevenson attended Thursday’s meeting in solidarity with Silvestrini’s decision, and Utah Homeless Services Coordinator Wayne Niederhauser said “We are here to support Millcreek and we appreciate what you are doing as a town.
“We made sure it’s not something permanent and it’s going to be something that goes to another city next year,” Niederhauser said. “We try to make sure everyone takes their turn.”
With at least $500,000 from the Legislative Assembly to cushion the effects of the sheltering, Millcreek will request two additional police officers to be deployed primarily on foot patrol. The city will also hire a contractor to pick up trash and waste, and is considering helping residents with items like lighting and security cameras.
“No Camping” signs go up on streets within 1,000 feet of the shelter and in Scott Avenue Park and officers are planning enhanced enforcement and targeted sweeps, said Steve DeBry, deputy chief of the Millcreek precinct of the Unified Police Department and a county. Member of the board.
Switchpoint, the service provider that operated the winter overflow shelter at nearby Osmond Living Center two years ago, will operate this, with additional private security.
“We can’t lock the doors”
The overflow shelter will be open between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., officials reassure, with strict separation between men and women. No meals, showers or social services will be available there.
“This is not a walk-in facility,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who also thanked the city for its assistance with what she said was a national issue.
“All of us are affected,” Wilson said.
As overflow limits at other shelters are maximum, people who have nowhere to go will be screened before coming to Millcreek by bus or van, including full searches of their belongings and checks against the state sex offender registry. Drugs, weapons and other contraband will be confiscated, DeBry said.
Those cleared for transport cannot be forced to stay once they arrive, “but that’s the expectation,” said Switchpoint’s Christy Johnson. “We cannot lock the doors.
“We know this is where you live and we want you to feel safe,” Johnson told Millcreek residents. “We also feel it is very important that our neighbours, our brothers and sisters, people who are part of this community who may be experiencing homelessness have shelter.
“We just want to be safe”
Petty crimes against homes and businesses and traumatic encounters involving drug addicts or those in mental distress have prompted many Millcreek residents to speak out.
Trae Eller, owner of Charlotte-Rose’s Carolina BBQ, said it wasn’t right to be demonized as apparently not caring about homeless people because they didn’t want shelter.
“We just want to be safe,” Eller said, recalling a day when small children being terrorized on the street by a homeless person ran into her store. He also complained about the short notice. “We have known for two weeks! Let me tell you where to drop a bomb near you in two weeks!
Others spoke of experiences of homelessness or helping those who had lived that way.
Erin Vistnes, a neighboring resident, worked as a case manager at the Fourth Street Clinic in Salt Lake City in 2021 when the county had no overflow shelter.
“My job is to tell people every night that they have to sleep outside,” Vistnes said. “I’m 24. It’s a devastating responsibility for me and my other social workers to take on.”
She never imagined seeing so many patients with frostbite and other injuries in a single night in the deep cold, let alone the number of homeless deaths in Salt Lake City that year.
Vistnes called the relief to learn that Millcreek would host the shelter this year “incredible”.