Could these Texas solutions help Salt Lake’s homeless? A look at the ‘most talked about neighborhood’ in the country

Bryan Coward sits on the porch of his tiny home at Community First! Village in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday Oct 20, 2020.

Bryan Coward sits on the porch of his tiny home at Community First! Village in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Salt Lake City mayor wants to mirror a tiny home village for the chronically homeless that is catching the nation’s eye

Editor’s note: Year after year, public camping and homelessness has persisted as an issue in Utah’s capital city — made even more complicated by the pandemic. The Deseret News looked to Austin, Texas, in search of both short- and long-term solutions. This is the first of a two-part series.

AUSTIN, Texas — The two settings are dramatic opposites.

One is a state-sanctioned tent city, tucked — practically hidden — away in an industrial area just north of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Tents, tarps, makeshift fences made out of pallets and port-a-potties sit on a hot slab of asphalt.

The other is a master planned tiny home village, built on the outskirts of southeast Austin. Tiny homes of all shapes and sizes line curved, paved roads and sidewalks, adorned with manicured lawns, gardens and patio areas.

The two, at least visually, couldn’t be any more different. And yet, to the people living there, they’re both seen as a solution to helping the most vulnerable: the homeless.

Whether they’re living in a tent or a tiny home, they’re proud of how they’ve made their homes — and they say they’ve found a sense of community.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Tents belonging to homeless people are pictured on 700 South in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute recently published a report identifying major problems within the state’s current homeless governance structure.

In Salt Lake City, public camping continues to be a problem each year. That’s despite the tens of millions of dollars city and state leaders spent in recent years to build three brand-new homeless resource centers, which have operated at virtually maximum capacity after they opened last year.

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The issue has been compounded by COVID-19, which makes shelter living even more difficult when there’s an outbreak. Utah’s homeless system has increasingly turned to hotels and motel vouchers to house the afflicted.

Tents, trash and drug use this year again amassed on streets west of the Rio Grande Depot and spilled onto grassy strips along streets, neighborhoods and parks throughout Salt Lake City.

Amid the pandemic, protests and concerns that forcing the breaking down of homeless camps could lead to a constitutional fight, Salt Lake City leaders took a gentle approach to cleaning up on-street camps this summer, instead focusing on social work and persistent outreach to provide services to the unsheltered, and often the service resistant.

Now, with winter at Salt Lake City’s doorstep, homeless advocates, and city and county officials are again scrambling to come up with another temporary winter overflow solution. It’s the same song and dance as last year — but this time amid the chaos of COVID-19. Since warehouse-style …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

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