Today, Mayor Jackie Biskupski signed a lease agreement between Salt Lake City and the State of Utah, allowing for the closure of a portion of Rio Grande Street to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The agreement allows the state to close Rio Grande Street between 200 South and the property boundaries of The Road Home and Catholic Community Services, in order to create a space benefitting individuals experiencing homelessness.
The lease agreement signed today is temporary, through November 30th, with an extension subject to the City Council holding a Public Benefits Hearing, a clarifying revision to Utah Code by the Utah State Legislature, and approval by the City Council to close the space as a public right-of-way. The extended closure would last through January 1, 2020 or thirty days after the closure of the Road Home.
Last week, Mayor Biskupski authorized the closure of the roadway to vehicular traffic, and launched a public engagement effort, which included a survey and a community forum. To date, more than 2,000 people have participated in the survey, with 86% of participants agreeing the closure would benefit those experiencing homelessness.
“The residents of Salt Lake City have been clear they want to be involved as we move forward with plans to address homelessness in our community,” said Mayor Biskupski. “The survey and our dialogue last night showed the public is supportive of the closure, but had some questions on the implementation, many of which were addressed last night.”
The closure is part of Operation Rio Grande, a multi-agency initiative aimed at providing increased services to those experiencing homelessness, as well as addressing crime in the area.
“Salt Lake City, particularly the Rio Grande area, is where individuals have long gone to find help in their most desperate times,” said Mayor Biskupski. “We have a responsibility to keep the area safe for them, and to ensure we have the appropriate resources available, including treatment beds for those with substance use disorder.”
The mayor added, “As we move forward with the second phase of Operation Rio Grande, I am so thankful our partners are brining additional treatment beds and service options online to support the work agencies like the city’s Community Connection Center have been doing.”
The City Council is expected to address the closure and hold the Public Benefits Hearing on September 19th.