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Scathing audit of Road Home released, claiming lax management led to drug use, safety concerns and poor health conditions

Laura Seitz, Deseret News FILE - Homeless people gather outside The Road Home in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. City officials are discussing moving the shelter. Significant safety issues exist at the downtown Salt Lake and Midvale homeless shelters operated by the Road Home, "largely due to a lax enforcement of the rules and procedures designed to prevent drug use and to provide a secure environment," according to the findings of a state audit released Tuesday.

SALT LAKE CITY — State leaders have stalled funding for the road home until they can review a scathing audit released today.

The Audit began in January and found, “troubling allegations regarding drug use, safety concerns, poor health conditions and mismanagement at the downtown shelter.”

“Some of these issues that were brought forward in this audit have been issues for a long time,”aid Utah House Speaker, Greg Hughes, in a legislative audit subcommittee today.

He said he’s spent some time down at the Road Home and heard stories from residents, but assumed those stories were exaggerated or anecdotal.

“I wish they were in here right now because I don’t think people have heard them to the degree they should have been heard,” Hughes said. “I regret that.”

They included one situation where a man was arrested inside the home with a gun, drugs and paraphernalia. This was especially concerning because, under Road Home rules, residents bags and coats are searched before they enter the home and officials are supposed to use a magnetic wand on everyone entering the building to check for weapons.

“In actual practice, we observed the screening often consists of little more than waving the magnetic wand over the coat pockets,” the report stated.

The audit found the shelters did well managing health standards in the building, but found several health and security violations at Palmer Court including broken locks and security cameras that had been tampered with. It also noted that rent at Palmer Court is “optional”.
“We found that 69 percent of the residents are behind in their rent payments. In fact, the total unpaid debt obligation by all residents is currently $438,000,” the report said.

In a multi-page response, the Road Home said they will do better in the future.

“Thanks in part to this audit process, we have already learned of areas where we can improve in the delivery of service we provide,” The Road Home said in the response.

In front of the legislative committee meeting, Tuesday, Road Home Executive Director, Matt Minkevitch, added to that statement, telling lawmakers they need more collaborators and help from elected officials to make those changes.

“10 years ago we had four thousand people coming to us. That number has doubled. The facility hasn’t changed,” Minkevitch said, “It used to be- you’re caught with a needle, you are out for a year. It doesn’t make sense right now because we have nowhere to refer that individual.”

Last week, the State Homeless Coordinating Committee voted to only approve 1/6th of the Road Home’s funds until after it the audit can be addressed in August. That left the Road Home with just 750 thousand of the typical 4.5 million dollars. The committee said those funds should allow services to continue uninterrupted until they have a chance to review the audit thoroughly.