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West Valley City Journal

City recognizes affordable housing month, public recognizes city’s efforts against shelter

May 10, 2017 11:29AM ● By Travis Barton

Citizens from West Valley turned out to various public meetings to voice opposition to the proposed homeless sites in the city. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]


Recognizing April as Affordable Housing Month, West Valley City officials expressed its appreciation for citizens letting their voice be heard during the site selection process for a new county resource center.

After three weeks of open houses, public comment and heated opposition to potential sites for a proposed resource center, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams chose 3380 S. 1000 West, located in South Salt Lake, for the center.

“I have been very appreciative of those citizens who have taken the time to attend these open houses and hearings to express their concerns and make others aware that we feel just as strongly about issues as others do,” said Mayor Ron Bigelow.

Resident Jacob Fitisemanu conveyed his appreciation to elected officials during the April 4 city council meeting for the “tone they set in being such a great resource.”

“Almost immediately, West Valley City came in (with) a website that we felt was really comprehensive in explaining to us as residents the amount of work and resources that West Valley City is already doing to help with homeless issues,” Fitisemanu said.

Fitisemanu, who has experience working with the Fourth Street Clinic downtown, said he has “a very special place” in his heart for the homeless, but also had an “intimate knowledge of the issues that might accompany that kind of a facility.”

During its March 28 meeting, Councilman Don Christensen read a proclamation that declared April 2017 as Affordable Housing Month in which the city identified the work it’s doing for the issue.

The proclamation stated how West Valley City has “over 33,000 in affordable housing units,” “provides over 800 housing units to individuals with special needs, disabilities, and other structural impediments to housing security” and “is one of two cities in the state of Utah to establish its own housing authority to support the development and maintenance of affordable housing.”

Before passing a resolution on March 28 that the city would not accept a homeless shelter, Councilman Steve Buhler said he felt it unfortunate that the city’s efforts had been overlooked.

“They should be known not only by our residents…but by others in the county and the state,” he said.

City Manager Wayne Pyle agreed with Buhler. He said he had deep feelings on the subject on personal, professional and West Valley resident levels.

“Far too glibly, quickly and easily through this whole process; our commitment and our achievements in this area have been overlooked,” Pyle said. “We’re proud of what we’ve done here in the city.”

Representative Elizabeth Weight told elected officials on April 4 that she could not think of a place “where she would be prouder to live than among the citizens and leadership of West Valley City.”

Weight, who was recently elected to her representative position, said she met many who are already affected by this issue and commended them for their demeanor.

“I heard them express their concerns with dignity and generosity and their gratitude for the opportunity,” Weight said.

Fitisemanu did request the city to improve in sharing its information in different languages. He, along with his family and neighbors, took the city information and translated it into Spanish for others. Many of whom, he said, came to meetings because of their translations.

“As a bilingual person and immigrant myself, I love being able to see things in our native language as well as English that helps our learning both ways,” Fitisemanu said.

During the April 11 city council meeting, Eugene Sorensen, who lives within two miles of the announced shelter site, relayed his concerns to the city council about its proximity to West Valley City locations like his home, city hall and the Maverik Center.

Bigelow said city boundaries are mostly meaningless to residents and the homeless population. He added that the city will continue committing time and resources to ensure the community is represented.

City employees have cleaned along the west side of the Jordan River to help keep it safe and visible.

Buhler and councilman Steve Vincent both said the battle did not end with the site being in South Salt Lake.

Vincent said it was important for the community to stay engaged and point out problems with the location, it could help the County possibly rethink the location.