Millcreek is ready to accept a new temporary homeless shelter

Muehlbach • Concerned residents are sprawling over a corner of the same tiny empty library in Millcreek, where some of Utah’s vulnerable will sleep warmly in the worst of winter.

The news that this suburban community near Salt Lake City will host up to 100 homeless adults every night from October or November through mid-April in an overflow shelter at the former Calvin L. Smith library is unwelcome in many quarters. And it has suddenly gotten to the point where many residents and even elected leaders are blind.

“None of us had that much time,” Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said Thursday night.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Millcreek will host a temporary overflow shelter for the homeless on Wednesday, August 31, 2022 at the former library of Calvin S. Smith at 810 E. 3300 South to keep vulnerable Utahns out of the cold.

This will be the second breakthrough for the immediate neighborhood near 800 East and 3300 South since housing accommodation in a vacant memorial care center just a block away in 2020 – as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened. This facility attracted a police call for the season but there were 60 beds and this one is larger. There’s a school across the street.

Also, since the coronavirus, Millcreek residents, like the rest of Salt Lake County, have seen increasing problems with homelessness in general, which have gotten significantly worse, with illegal camping, trash, crime, addiction, mental illness, and human misery and misery becoming more public be put on display.

Many people who showed up Thursday night at the former county library at 810 E. 3300 South for Millcreek’s first hearing on how she will deal with the impact of the shelter were upset.

But public comment wasn’t all opposition and pitchforks. Several speakers said they felt it was the most compassionate thing to do.

Silvestrini, a second-term mayor, put it straight to the crowd of about 150 concerned residents and business owners, some of whom were clearly angry and fearful: There is no yes under the Utah Legislature’s new short-term mandate for Salt Lake County or no more mayors. There is now a debate about how Millcreek can best deal with it, he said, “with the least negative impact”.

Then he told the story of Jill.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) During a public meeting on Thursday, September 15, 2022, people commented to discuss and comment on the temporary overflow shelter for the homeless that will be housed this winter at Calvin S. Smith’s vacant library after Millcreek will come.

Silvestrini, who volunteered at a nearby food bank for the past few months, consisted of staggering vehicles in a drive-thru line to collect groceries. He met a teacher who came regularly and apparently lived in her car. He learned that she was a lifelong resident of Millcreek. Medical problems left her disabled and she had lost her job and then her home.

“I can’t stand the idea of ​​people like Jill wintering in their cars or on the streets when it’s freezing without a home this winter,” said Silvestrini, visibly moved. “It’s the humanitarian reason why I believe our city needs to step up.”

No more dumping the problem in Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and Midvale, hosts of the county’s premier homeless resource centers. “This is a statewide issue,” the mayor told nervous residents, “and a Millcreek issue.”

The mayor swears the city is “working on it,” with Deputy City Manager Francis Lily as the main public contact. “My job here is to help this neighborhood absorb the impact,” said Lily, who lives a few blocks away. “I’ve seen it in the past and I think we can do it because we’re pretty strong.”

Reinforced neighborhood security

Millcreek City Council members and Midvale Mayor Marcus Stevenson attended Thursday’s meeting in solidarity with Silvestrini’s decision, and Utah’s Homeless Services Coordinator Wayne Niederhauser said: “We are here to support Millcreek and we appreciate it what you do as a city.

“We made sure that this isn’t permanent and will go to a different city next year,” Niederhauser said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone has a turn.”

With at least $500,000 set aside by the Legislature to cushion the impact of taking the shelter, Millcreek will have two additional officers assigned primarily to foot patrols. The city will also hire a contractor to pick up trash and scrap and is considering providing assistance to residents for items like lighting and security cameras.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Silvia Catten, Member of Millcreek City Council, speaks during a public meeting on Thursday, September 15, 2022 to discuss and comment on the temporary overflow shelter for the homeless that will open this winter in the vacant Calvin S Smith Library.

“No Camping” signs will be posted within 1,000 feet of the shelter and in Scott Avenue Park, and officers plan to increase enforcement and targeted searches, said Steve DeBry, deputy chief of the Millcreek district of the Unified Police Department and a county member Council .

Switchpoint, the service provider that operated the winter overflow shelter at the nearby Osmond Living Center two years ago, will operate it with added private security.

“We can’t lock the doors”

The overflow shelters will be open between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., officials assured, with strict segregation between men and women. No meals, showers or social services are available there.

“This is not a walk-in facility,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who also thanked the city for helping with a national issue.

“Every one of us is affected,” Wilson said.

With overflow limits at the other shelters exhausted, people with nowhere else to go will be screened before coming to Millcreek by bus or van, including a full search of their belongings and checks with the state sex offender registry. Drugs, guns and other contraband are seized, DeBry said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Switchpoint’s Christy Johnson listens during a public meeting on Thursday, September 15, 2022 to discuss and comment on the temporary overflow shelter for the homeless that will open this winter in the vacant Calvin S. Smith Library will come to Millcreek.

Those who are allowed to be transported cannot be forced to stay after they arrive, “but that’s the expectation,” said Switchpoint’s Christy Johnson. “We can’t lock the doors.

“We know you live here and we want you to feel safe,” Johnson told Millcreek residents. “We also think it’s very important that our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, people who are part of this community who may be affected by homelessness, have shelter.”

“We just want to be sure”

Petty crime against homes and businesses, and traumatic encounters with drug users or the mentally ill prompted many Millcreek residents to speak out.

Trae Eller, owner of Charlotte-Rose’s Carolina BBQ, said it wasn’t right to be demonized for allegedly not caring for the homeless because they didn’t want the shelter.

“We just want to be safe,” Eller said, recalling a day when small children who were being terrorized on the street by an unprotected person ran into his store. He also complained about the short-term nature. “We’ve known for two weeks! Let me tell you where you can bomb your house in two weeks time!”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People comment during a public meeting Thursday, September 15, 2022 to discuss and comment on the temporary overflow shelter for the homeless who will be moving to Millcreek this winter at the vacant Calvin S. Smith Library will come.

Others spoke of experiences of being homeless or helping those who had lived that way.

Erin Vistnes, a nearby resident, was working as a case manager at Salt Lake City’s Fourth Street Clinic in 2021 while the county had no overflow housing.

“My job is to tell people every night to sleep outside,” Vistnes said. “I’m 24 years old. It’s a devastating responsibility that I and my other colleagues have to take on.”

She never imagined that in just one night in the freezing cold, she would see so many patients with frostbite and other injuries, let alone the spike in homeless deaths in Salt Lake City this year.

Vistnes called the relief when he heard Millcreek would be hosting the shelter this year “incredible”.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson responds to comment during a public meeting Thursday, September 15, 2022 to discuss the temporary overflow shelter for homeless people who will be vacant this winter Calvin S. Smith Library.

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