Audit finds drug use widespread at Utah homeless shelter

Audit finds drug use widespread at Utah homeless shelter

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new audit found drug use is widespread inside an overcrowded Salt Lake City homeless shelter that’s been marked for closure after a spate of violence nearby.

Lax enforcement of rules and procedures meant to deter drug use is endangering people seeking shelter at the Road Home operations and surrounding neighbors, the state audit released Tuesday stated.

A man who was recently arrested at Road Home’s downtown Salt Lake City shelter was found in possession of a loaded gun, drugs and drug paraphernalia, auditors said.

The audit also found problems with the Road Home’s Midvale shelter and its Palmer Court housing complex for chronically homeless people.

Road Home will update its standards of conduct and the processes to enforce them, it said in a statement released Friday, but its director, Matt Minkevitch, strongly disputed the idea that it tolerates drug dealing.

“Have we caught everyone? Absolutely not. Do we invite help? Absolutely,” he said.

Auditors reported that they found evidence of drugs during every visit to the downtown Salt Lake City shelter.

They also found a “used syringe under a bunk” and “spice joints in the urinal.”

Auditors also conducted interviews with 21 Salt Lake City residents living in the streets and nearly a third of them said they avoided the downtown shelter because of the “drug use, stealing and poor health conditions.”

While auditors did not personally see drug use or evidence of drug use at the Midvale shelter, police reports said drugs have been found there.

At Palmer Court, “outside social workers, the Road Home staff, and residents have all indicated that they know who uses drugs and that they have observed drug use at the facility,” according to the report.

Shelter officials suggest recent legislation aimed at keeping people suffering from addiction out of jail or prison has led to more drug users on the streets and around the shelter.

The Road Home aims to be a “low barrier shelter” and does not turn away people who are not sober or forces people who stay there to enter treatment or seek help unless they want to.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser worry that residents may confuse “low barrier” entry with lax security and no accountability.