Salt Lake City

City Creates New Position to Oversee and Coordinate Efforts to Address Homelessness


November 27, 2013
Contact: Art Raymond

City Creates New Position to Oversee and Coordinate Efforts to Address Homelessness

SALT LAKE CITY – Mayor Ralph Becker, the City Council and Community and Economic Development Director Eric Shaw are pleased to announce the recent appointment of Liz Buehler to the newly created position of Salt Lake City Homeless Services Coordinator.

Buehler will work directly with law enforcement, social service providers, local businesses, faith-based organizations and other internal and external agencies in a wide variety of City efforts to combat homelessness. She will also help oversee and review federally-funded Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) projects, seek grant and other funding sources to help address issues and gather and assess complex data to inform and shape future strategies.

“Even having just stepped into this position, Liz is already making an impact in this critical area of work,” said Mayor Becker. “We have an overarching and ambitious goal of ending homelessness in Salt Lake City and the path there is one with many challenges. In this new position, Liz is tasked with bringing the relevant people and organizations together to find solutions and get these members of our community on the path to permanent housing and better lives.”

Buehler did undergraduate work at the University of Texas and also earned a Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning at the same school. She has previously worked in municipal government in Portland and North Richland Hills, Texas and, since 2010, as a Principal Planner for Salt Lake City.

The City is currently engaged in wide-ranging projects and efforts to address homelessness including:

Redeployment of Bike Officers and Modified Duty Schedules-The police department's Bike Squads have been redeployed to the Depot District. This is an increase of 10 officers and two sergeants that are now assigned to patrol the Depot District, Main Street and Library Square. Their duty schedules have also been adjusted to provide Bike
Squad coverage over a larger portion of each day, seven days a week.

Super Operations-Officers from the Community Intelligence Unit, Bike Squads, Motors, SWAT, Organized Crime Unit, Narcotics, Detectives, Public Relations, Salt Lake Information Center and Patrol have been deployed in operations directed at "order maintenance" and specific crimes in the Depot District. These operations are usually conducted
over the course of a week and move from covert to overt in their progression.

Undercover Narcotics and Vice Operations-Weekly undercover operations are conducted in the Depot District, targeting illegal drug dealing, drug solicitation, prostitution and other related crimes.

Increased Patrols-Patrol officers have provided an increased presence in the area.

Clean Teams- The City has partnered with the Downtown Alliance and Valley Services to implement "clean teams." Since September, these teams have been walking every street in the Depot District once or twice a day picking up trash and performing small property maintenance. Valley Services supervises and employs the clean teams. Clean team members are made up of users of the Weigand Center; work on the clean teams can lead to other employment opportunities with Valley Services.

Ambassador Program- The new Downtown Ambassadors will provide street-level concierge services downtown, ready to be of assistance to visitors, residents and businesses. In addition to giving directions and giving recommendations on things to see and do, each ambassador will make an effort to keep the downtown area safe and be prepared to help in case of an emergency.

HOST Outreach Teams- The latest effort of the City's Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) program is an outreach team. Once a week, various services providers, along with members of the City's police department go to Pioneer Park or other outdoor locations and contact people who do not usually use homeless services. This effort helps identify new users and gets people the help they need.

Race to Zero-Salt Lake City has partnered with the City of Phoenix in a friendly competition to see which city can house all its homeless veterans first. Both cities are close to reaching this goal. Salt Lake City only has 39 homeless veterans left. The hope is the "competition" will increase collaboration between the two cities and allow them to share success stories with other cities in their efforts. As part of the effort, Mayor Becker has proclaimed November 2013 as Veterans Housing Month.

Visit of Los Angeles Service Agencies-Several city staff members visited Los Angeles November 7 and 8 to see what agencies there are doing to help the homeless. The City delegation met with Santa Monica officials, learned about different programs associated with UCLA, visited the PATH mall (a one-stop service shop in a re-used shopping center), toured Skid Row and learned about a dispersed service model.

Parking Restrictions-On-street parking stalls along both sides of 500 West between 200 and 400 South have been given two-hour time restrictions to deter long-term parking there. Rio Grande Street between 200 South and 300 South already has those time restrictions. As an added deterrence, parking is not allowed in those stalls during the overnight hours.

Veterans' Court-The Salt City Justice Court Veterans' Court has been operating since April 2011. Court sessions are attended by a justice court judge, court staff, a Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator from the federal Department of Veterans' Affairs, Salt Lake Legal Defenders' Association personnel, and Salt Lake City Prosecutors' Office personnel. This collaboration offers a unique "direct connection to veterans' treatment options", and other veterans' resources, for veterans with cases in the Salt Lake City Justice Court .

Homeless Court-The Salt Lake City Justice Court Homeless Court has been in operation since 2004 under the guidance of Judge John Baxter. It allows homeless individuals the option of appearing before a judge well-versed in homeless issues and in the company of others similarly situated and facing similar challenges. Certain offenses are not fully considered in the homeless court based on their seriousness (for example, DUI, domestic violence, or other assaultive conduct). Homeless court does allow other offenses (examples: public intoxication, open container, trespass) that are appropriate for a more informal setting to be heard. These cases can be resolved in a judicially efficient manner, and warrants can be recalled for later appearance before the regular court if the matter cannot be resolved in the homeless court.

Downtown Public Restrooms-The City Council allocated $350,000 in the current year's Capital Improvement Project funding for two public restrooms in the Downtown area. Before the permanent restrooms are installed in early spring, temporary facilities have been located to 500 West and 200 South.