Strengthening Municipal Government’s Response to Street Homelessness – Salt Lake City, Utah
Period of Performance: October 2018 – December 2018
Cloudburst was asked to assess and report on ways in which the City’s departments have responded to concerns about street homelessness. The consulting team reviewed existing data and held structured interviews with 10 senior staff in six City departments. The compiled information was related to two kinds of events: unpredictably timed emergency/nuisance calls, and encampment clearings.
The Cloudburst team learned that many City departments were responding to hundreds of issues, but no centralized mechanism existed through which information could be collected, disseminated, tracked or shared. Additionally, staff from different departments were not always aware of what the other departments were doing to respond, or what other departments had the capacity or expertise to do. Expectations and norms for using the data systems and for internal and external communications about these matters varied widely, as did staff member knowledge of relevant City and community resources.
During an onsite session, City leaders and Cloudburst consultants identified crucial next steps in improving the City’s response, including:
- Strengthening internal systems, coordination and communication
- Operating with a clear and values-driven strategy
- Communicating a clear message to the community, and
- Following through consistently.
As a result of Cloudburst’s efforts:
- City leaders understood the disconnects among different data systems, and the disparity of expectations for communication and coordination.
- City leaders committed to using their standing weekly meetings to work through larger issues of system alignment and consistent policies, rather than focusing exclusively on near-term operational issues.
- Cloudburst is well positioned to help other municipalities understand where systems break down and to chart a course for improvement.
- The work in Salt Lake City underscores the ways that municipal operations can and should coordinate closely with the homeless crisis response system, to move individuals directly into a pathway to housing.