SALT LAKE CITY — After the Utah Legislature approved HB 3, Gov. Spencer Cox praised the comprehensive solutions approved by the Senate and Utah House to address homeless services needs.

Youth Futures Utah’s soon-to-open shelter home for runaway and homeless youth, Cedar City, Utah, March 10, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

According to a media release, legislators approved $66.2 million, which includes funding for affordable housing, mental health services, shelters for families and the elderly, detox facilities and youth shelters in Southern Utah.

The Utah Impact Partnership committed an additional $15 million to help support this vulnerable population.

“Our homeless friends need our help, and I’m grateful to live in a state where we take care of each other and our most vulnerable,” Cox said. “This comprehensive approach will help keep all Utahns safe, improve our cities, counties and businesses, ensure that tax dollars are being spent wisely, and prevent homelessness on the front end. We appreciate the collaborative spirit between the state, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Impact Partnership, our cities and towns, the State Courts and so many others as well as the shared commitment to improve lives.”

The $66.2 million funding package approved by the Legislature includes $50.7 million for emergency shelter, $4.4 million for prevention and $11.1 million for behavioral health.

Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, asks representatives to settle down and take their seats before the start of the 2024 Legislature at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Jan. 16, 2024 | Photo by Krisitn Murphy/The Deseret News via The Associated Press, Pool, St. George News

“I am proud of the work we did this session to address unsanctioned camping, improve housing affordability, and mitigate the effects of homelessness on local communities,” said House Speaker Mike Schultz. “Strengthening accountability, enforcing unsanctioned camping, and establishing better processes and programs for individuals suffering from mental and behavioral health issues are big steps in the right direction.”

Emergency shelter investments of $50.7 million include $25 million for low-barrier shelter development, $21.8 million for statewide homeless system support, $2.5 million for homeless shelter cities mitigation, $10 million for wrap-around services, and $1.4 million for other shelter supports. There’s also an optional “round up” on liquor store purchases that will be donated to the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Account, which could generate an additional $2-4 million.

We sincerely appreciate the collaborative efforts of our governor, the Legislature, and our mayors in addressing this critical issue of homelessness. Their united front underscores the importance of a multifaceted approach, combining enforcement with empathy to relieve the trauma faced by our most vulnerable. The Utah Impact Partnership proudly continues its commitment by matching state efforts with an additional $15 million in philanthropic funds. This reflects our shared dedication to accountability and creating sustainable, dignified solutions for those in need. — Randy Shumway, co-chair of the current Utah Homeless Council and treasurer for the Utah Impact Partnership

As it relates to prevention, the Legislature funded $2.5 million for a new HOME Court to facilitate lasting treatment outcomes for homeless individuals, as well as $1.7 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to support youth experiencing homelessness and $238,000 for additional staff to support state housing programs.

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams gives his opening speech to kick off the 2024 Legislature at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Jan. 16, 2024 | Photo by Krisitn Murphy/The Deseret News via The Associated Press, Pool, St. George News

Behavioral health investments of $11.1 million include $8.2 million for a “step-down” facility for individuals with severe mental illness, $2.3 million to help address behavioral health workforce gaps, $351,200 for opioid-related supportive housing, as well as $185,000 for behavioral health licensee support. 

“Our state has embarked on an unprecedented, coordinated effort to address homelessness from every angle,” said Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “The collaboration between Gov. Cox, legislators and community leaders has allowed cutting-edge solutions to move the needle in significant ways. The goal is to connect individuals with resources and help those experiencing mental health, behavioral health and homelessness.”

Similar bills that addressed Cox administration policy objectives include:

H.B. 298: Establishes a “functional-zero” approach by strengthening data accountability requirements and improved governance by reshaping the Homelessness Board.
H.B. 299: Strengthens Utah’s civil commitment laws and amends release standards to better align care for patients suffering from mental and behavioral health issues.
H.B. 421: Focuses on enforcement of unsanctioned camping and establishes the HOME Court pilot program. 
H.B. 548: Allows optional donations to  the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Account.
S.B. 139: Establishes a process for the courts to order ongoing administration of antipsychotic medication to maintain a defendant’s competency to stand trial.

The legislative session ended at 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 1.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2024 Utah Legislature by clicking here.

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