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Road Home meets again with legislators about unfavorable audit, gives details on response

SALT LAKE CITY — Road Home officials discussed with lawmakers Wednesday details of their response to a blistering legislative audit about safety and security at its homeless shelters.

The Road Home has taken several steps since a report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor General last month concluded there were "serious concerns about the health and safety of the residents" at its Salt Lake and Midvale shelters.

"These problems are largely due to a lax enforcement of the rules and procedures designed to prevent drug use and to provide a secure environment," including inconsistent screening of people entering the shelters, the report said at the time.

The document detailing the shelter's fixes was presented to the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday, and Road Home officials discussed their response to the audit Wednesday with the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee.

Matt Minkevitch, executive director of the Road Home, said "a number of the things the audit found, we immediately corrected."

"We have, since the audit, retrained all shelter staff on appropriate check-ins," Minkevitch said. "That has been very helpful."

Routine inspections of dormitories, bathrooms and shelter alarm systems have also been "beefed up," he said.

The document lists "shelter entrance screening," "staff screening training" and "management of barred shelter guests" at the downtown facility among the areas where written policies have been changed since the audit, as well as "guest expectations" at both shelters. The changes are subject to formal approval by Shelter the Homeless, which manages the shelter properties, later this month.

As part of the security enhancements, the purchase of metal detectors for both homeless shelters is currently pending, the report said. Minkevitch said the Road Home currently uses only wand metal detectors rather than walk-through machines.

The Road Home has also proposed "the addition of private security to supplement the team of the two security officers who are currently working in the downtown shelter."

"The additional officers would help with the operation of the metal detectors and oversee … bag checks on an ongoing basis," the progress report says.

At the Midvale shelter, the Unified Police Department will more often "randomly search the entire facility for drugs or weapons," according to the document.

The Road Home has designated multiple officials to serve on a security committee, which will be responsible for reviewing a monthly report on safety matters at each of its facilities, "along with approving safety policies and protocols," the progress report says.

The Road Home also presented a document to the Collective Impact on Homelessness Steering Committee last week that was drafted to help "properly classify" the seriousness of various rule violations at the shelters and "guide decision-making and response by staff."

Last month's audit had also raised concerns about Palmer Court, a low-income housing complex that the Road Home administers for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The new progress report says the Road Home is addressing audit criticisms that touched on the health implications of the pets policy at that complex, the drug use of some residents, and high numbers of residents delinquent on their rent.

Minkevitch also took the opportunity Wednesday to tell lawmakers he is concerned about the "trendline" showing a growing number of people needing shelter at some point during the year.

But he added he is grateful for Operation Rio Grande's effect on the neighborhood near the downtown shelter, which he believes "made a remarkable transformation (on) that area."

"We have safer streets, people feel safer coming to us," he said. "Now (we want to) make sure they feel safe once they’re in — that’s very important to us."