Why are we hiding the problem instead of finding solutions?
Utah has a 54,000 housing unit shortage. This is a very real, and very big issue.
Today I saw a Facebook post made by Salt Lake City Mayor-Elect, Erin Mendenhall about a co-authored statement from herself and current Salt Lake City Mayor, Jackie Biskupski. It’s in regards to the ongoing homeless protest situation on Washington Square.
Homeless people are living in tents and random shelters, which have been errected around the Salt Lake City and County building. They claim that they have nowhere to go because of the recent closure of the Road Home shelter. The Road Home’s shutdown occurred after the opening of several new shelters around the state.
The problem? These new shelters have a significantly decreased capacity. At the State level there seems to have been a deliberate reduction to the total number of shelter beds as part of the State’s new approach to homelessness. I can’t fathom a reason why nobody thought this would be a problem. There also seems to be no obvious plan to solve this dilemma either.
In the facebook post, our new Mayor states that the leaders of the protest had refused to speak with them. I read the comments and one particular comment by Leo Rodgers stood out to me, “They’re camped like right outside the city building, can’t y’all just go outside and talk to them?”
“They’re camped like right outside the city building, can’t y’all just go outside and talk to them?”
I read this and realized the absurdity of saying the protestors wouldn’t meet. I decided to take a drive to City Hall and see for myself what was going on, and if I could meet with the protest leaders.
After arriving, I started shaking hands with people and within about five minutes I had an audience with several of the group’s leaders. They asked me to keep their identities private and avoid any pictures of faces, due to the fear they have of our law enforcement system.
I asked if the statement from the mayors was accurate and they told me, “No! they didn’t even give us a chance to respond. Just a time-limit and an eviction notice. We have nowhere to go, the shelters are full. They’re sending police in here at 11pm wearing full riot gear! We’re just cold, and trying to get some sleep. We want people to know what’s going on here.”
I asked what the plan was for everyone once they were “rounded up,” and their leader said “I suppose they’ll arrest us. We had to form a human wall earlier to get them to back off, and we weren’t violating any laws!”
The Moses Evaluation of the Situation:
I went live on facebook if you’d like to catch that stream:
What happened to Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox’s statement “No one is going to be left out in the cold, no matter what?”
From my visit to Washington Square, it seems to me that leaving people out in the cold is exactly what our leadership is doing.
Honestly, we should be doing what the protesters are asking for. Giving more money for beds and education, instead of increasing criminalization and incarceration. Homelessness is a situation any of us could find ourselves in. I’ve helped many people get out of homelessness. When you hit rock bottom, there is generally no way out of it, without a hand to lift you up. We need to be a Mentor-State, not a Punitive-State. It’s our duty as representatives of the people to look out for those around us, and to do everything we can to make sure that no resident of Utah is left out in the cold.
While walking around the grounds, I found no disorderly conduct, just a lot of hungry, cold, and scared people. Nobody wants to end up in jail, simply for having no home to go to.
I’m going to be at the square at 11pm. If you make it down, I hope to see you.
Utah’s Next Governor
(*updated 1/5/20 to add the live streams from Facebook during the police raid)