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Temporary shelter essential

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Salt Lake and state agencies need to work together to provide a temporary shelter for the homeless during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Failure to do so will result in considerable hardship and possibly even death.

The Olympics are expected to draw more homeless to Salt Lake City. Some will come hoping to get a temporary job. In addition, there will likely be some Salt Lake residents who need temporary shelter because of being evicted from motels or other rental units because of the Olympics.

The cost needed to provide for a 600-bed temporary shelter is expected to be $571,000. That's what Mayor Rocky Anderson's staff estimates it will take to convert an old warehouse near 300 South and 600 West into a shelter.

The Salt Lake City Council is scheduled to discuss shelter possibilities at its meeting next Tuesday.

Council members understandably are irritated that they weren't consulted where to put the shelter or that the matter wasn't brought to their attention earlier. To their credit, last week in their capacity as Redevelopment Agency Board members, they approved the RDA putting $75,000 toward the temporary shelter. Council members have instructed Anderson's staff to seek matching funds from other agencies, including state government and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

The 700 beds in the permanent shelters in Salt Lake City and Midvale will be filled, according to Matt Minkevitch, executive director of Travelers Aid. The permanent shelters are at capacity or near capacity during a normal winter. Because of the Games, the winter of 2002 will not be normal.

According to Anderson, the 600 West site is a good choice because it is close to other Travelers Aid services and it's a piece of city property that needs upgrading anyway.

However, like the City Council, some members of westside community councils near the proposed site are upset because they feel left out of the planning process. They have a legitimate concern about having another homeless shelter nearby.

But since the shelter will be temporary and not permanent, either the 600 West site or another one needs to be supported. To do nothing is a terrible alternative.