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SALT LAKE CITY — Days after House Speaker Greg Hughes voiced frustration over the crime and chaos around Salt Lake City's troubled homeless shelter, downtown business leaders joined the chorus.
The Downtown Alliance issued a news release Tuesday expressing support for 10 "immediate steps" to be taken to regain control over the lawlessness, crime and drug addiction now running rampant in downtown's Rio Grande neighborhood.
Here are the steps they support (many of which are already underway):
- Salt Lake City's planned infrastructure improvements to create a safer environment. The planned changes include redesigning the 500 West median, installing new security cameras, adding restrooms and more.
- A coordinated statewide effort acknowledging this is not just a Salt Lake City or Salt Lake County problem. State legislators approved millions in funding to help Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County with homeless resources earlier this year.
- Additional jail beds in Salt Lake County and a coordinated effort from state leaders to ensure these beds are made available immediately. Salt Lake County worked with the state to fund up to 300 additional jail beds by contracting with outlying counties.
- Enforcement of existing camping ordinances and changing operations at the Road Home to avoid queuing for beds outside of the shelter.
- Heightened cleaning and clearing of discarded personal items in the neighborhood on a weekly (or more) basis. The Salt Lake County Health Department already regularly cleans the area, but Downtown Alliance is advocating for more frequent cleanups.
- Relocation or operational changes to the state liquor store on 200 West and 400 South. McAdams sent a letter to the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission last month asking for the store to be relocated.
- Additional statewide funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment.
- Additional statewide investment in affordable housing.
- Continued support for Salt Lake County’s Collective Impact Agenda and long-term approach to homeless services.
- A re-commitment for public and private leaders to work together in good faith to address the crisis. Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert's spokesman said he intends to meet with both mayors and other legislative leaders to discuss strategies to immediately improve the Rio Grande neighborhood.
Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said the purpose of Tuesday's call for action was to highlight efforts already underway, but also ask for "greater intensity and greater investment" into efforts that "can really make a difference down there."
"Every year, the situation at Rio Grande deteriorates in July and August, and we tend to reach a crisis point," he said, adding that last week, the public was reminded that the neighborhood is particularly dangerous.
Every year, the situation at Rio Grande deteriorates in July and August, and we tend to reach a crisis point.
–Jason Mathis, Downtown Alliance
Last week, police reported a homeless man attacking and injuring Las Vegas 51s Triple-A pitcher Joshua Cruz at 500 S. West Temple and a woman crashing into six pedestrians, killing one, on a sidewalk just north of the Road Home shelter.
"We're not blaming anybody for the current situation," Mathis said. "We're just saying that the efforts are really important and we don't want people to lose hope — but to increase their commitment and efforts to solve the problem."
Biskupski's spokesman, Matthew Rojas, said the mayor and her staff "appreciate the statement of support" from the Downtown Alliance, pointing out that many of the actions are already underway.
"The Downtown Alliance has always been a productive partner as we seek to improve conditions in this area, presenting ideas and also working to implement changes," he said.