Homelessness Data Dashboard | Salt Lake City | Utah

Today we want to focus on bringing your attention to a great new resource for the public in Utah. The Homelessness Data Dashboard is a great new site where everyone can get information about how well we are doing as a state to address homelessness.

We as the Pioneer Park Coalition hope this will lead to more transparency and data-driven decisions.

Homelessness Data Dashboard

The public can access the new Homelessness Data Dashboard by clicking on the link above, which will take you directly to the Utah.gov Department of Workforce Services page.

Here, users will find an easy-to-use console where one can choose different parameters to search for, such as:

veteran status
age group
household type
project type
homeless services provider

As each new parameter is chosen, the report on the dashboard will update, displaying information such as:

The number of people accessing services
Year to Year trends
The number of people exiting the system
Percentile comparisons to the previous period
Overall people in the homelessness database
And more.

As an example, when I accessed the dashboard today, I selected the dates of January 1st, 2017-December 10th, 2017.

Under subpopulation, I selected “Salt Lake” for the COC, “All” for Veteran Status, “All” for Age Group, “Persons in Families” for Household Type.

Under Project & Provider, I selected “All” for Project Type and “The Road Home” for Provider.

Essentially, I wanted to take a snapshot of people in families experiencing homelessness anytime during 2017 who utilized The Road Home.

Here is what the dashboard looks like with those parameters:

Homelessness Data Dashboard for the State of Utah

I liked the way everything was very clear and concise. When I hover over different parts of the report, more information about what exactly I am seeing pops up.

From this report, I can deduce that 3,852 people in my subgroups accessed services from The Road Home in 2017, which is down 1% from the previous period (in my case, January-December 2016). I can also see that 1,928 people in my subgroup exited the system through The Road Home. This is down 34% over the previous period (or year, in our example).

I can quickly deduce from this that about the same number of people in my subgroup accessed services in 2017 as in 2016. However, far less people exited the system then they did in the previous year. I can also see that the majority of those exiting the system ended up in the “other” category…which basically means “we don’t know.” However, 32% ended up in permanent housing, which is always the goal.

We encourage the public to use this tool and hope that as transparency increases, accountability and interest will as well. We would love to hear any of your thoughts on this new system. Feel free to send your comments to us here.


Gateway Bridal & Prom | Pioneer Park | Neighborhood Spotlight

We are fortunate to have some amazing neighbors here in the Pioneer Park neighborhood. Both residents and businesses alike make our vision for our area come alive. Today we would like to focus on Gateway Bridal & Prom, home of the LatterDayBride collection, located at 360 West Broadway, Suite #101, on the north side of Pioneer Park. Gateway Bridal is owned and operated by our own Pioneer Park Coalition board member, Nicole Thomas.

Nicole Thomas, owner of Gateway Bridal in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City

Nicole started Gateway Bridal more than 16 years ago. The original storefront was located at the south end of the Gateway Mall, almost directly across from the current Road Home homeless shelter. The years leading up to the move to the current location were difficult…it was hard for Nicole and her staff to see the area deteriorating as the Rio Grande neighborhood became more a drug haven than a place for customers to come buy wedding dresses. They had seen sex acts performed outside their office window, had addicts use their bathroom to shoot up, showed up to work to find someone had defecated in front of the door, and on a few occasions, people were even found dead in their parking lot, either from violence or drug overdoses. Pre Operation Rio Grande, Nicole felt she had no choice but to move her store, for the safety of herself, her customers, and her staff. You can read more from Nicole in her op-ed here.

Gateway Bridal located in the Rio Grande and Pioneer Park neighborhood of Salt Lake City

Nicole has been a longtime member and now a board member of the Pioneer Park Coalition. She knew when she moved she didn’t want to give up on our neighborhood, which is why she chose to move Gateway Bridal just down the street to it’s current location across from Pioneer Park. While many retailers moved out of the area completely, opting for the shiny new City Creek Center, Nicole knew Gateway’s home was on Salt Lake’s west side. While the problems that plagued the store back in the old location aren’t completely gone, they are few and far between, thanks in large part to the efforts of Operation Rio Grande.  

Now, for the fun part. Gateway Bridal and Prom is Utah’s premier bridal and prom destination. Their customer service is unparalleled and the selection is huge.

The gorgeous new showroom is like something straight out of a fairytale, and is every bride-to-be or high school girl’s dream come true.

From the individual bridal consultation areas with 360 degree views to the fun shared prom area where you can oooh and aaaah with your girlfriends, Gateway’s showroom is candy for the eyes.

Gateway Bridal is also home to the LatterDayBride collection, boasting the largest selection of modest wedding and prom dresses in the world! They also carry the largest selection of plus size wedding dress samples in the state, because they know not every bride is a Barbie doll and want every bride to be able to try on their dream dress before they buy. So from strapless to modest, size 0-32, you can bet you can find a bridal gown or prom dress for every taste AND every budget, with many wedding dresses coming in under $600!

We are so pleased to have Gateway Bridal & Prom in our neighborhood, as well as the leadership and service Nicole provides to our area and to the Pioneer Park Coalition as a volunteer.

Gateway Bridal

We hope you will come visit Gateway Bridal for your wedding and prom dress needs and check out their beautiful new show room and wide selection!

PC: AK Studio & Design

A New Vision for Pioneer Park | Family Friendly and Inviting to All 24/7

We have examples to follow as we recreate Pioneer Park.

On any given day, visitors and residents of New York City can visit the Bryant Park website and be overwhelmed with the sheer amount and variety of activities going on in the park that day (and night).

A New Vision for Pioneer Park

Frozen fountain in beautiful Bryant Park in NYC

As I sit down to write this blog post, for example, I could hit up Joe Coffee Company for my morning brew or select from a number of other food kiosks.  I could take my kids down at 11 a.m. for Bryant Park Games where we can play board games as a family. After our epic Monopoly match we can head over to the ice skating rink for opening day at noon, grabbing a bite to eat at Breads Bakery on the way. After skating, we can have a battle for the ages at the Ping Pong tournament or visit the Art Cart to utilize the free drawing and craft supplies and take advantage of free art instruction. Ice skating at Bryant Park in NYC provides example to SLC Pioneer Park

I could go on. But this just gives you a taste of a vision. The vision we have for our own Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City.

Movie in the park at Bryant Park in NYC

Bryant Park in New York City isn’t the first to embrace the concept of a publicly owned yet privately run park. And they certainly won’t be the last. But what they do have is a history. Looking at Bryant Park 20 years ago, you would have found a haven for drug dealers and a public bathroom for the homeless. The fountains long dried up and covered in graffiti. If you have visited SLC’s Pioneer Park in the last decade, this may sound familiar.Vision for Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City with Bryant Park example

So what changed? How did Bryant Park go from being a seedy NYC armpit to New York City’s beloved Town Square? It started with a vision. A public-private partnership between elected officials, NYC Parks and Recreation, and local businesses. It started with a commitment; and a group of people saying “This is OUR neighborhood. Let’s take it back.”Bryant Park is an example for Pioneer Park in Utah

This is how we know it can be done. Other examples include Millennium Park in Chicago and Civic Center Park in our neighboring Denver. These cities faced many of the same challenges we now face and they figured it out. They united as a city and rose above it, creating beautiful, thriving parks that are cultural activity centers.

Pioneer Park is uniquely located and positioned to be just as successful as these examples. And we are well on our way. A small taste of the large scale dream we have in mind include the Downtown Farmer’s Market and Twilight Concert Series, both which have found a home in the park and are run by private entities.

Are you ready to join us? Maybe someday soon you can wake up on a Saturday morning and visit the Pioneer Park website to plan out the day with YOUR family.

Contact us to get involved. We would love to have you be a part of the vision!

Operation Rio Grande is Working | Op-Ed by PPC member Nicole Thomas

Operation Rio Grande is WORKING! That is the bottom line of the op-ed written by Pioneer Park Coalition member Nicole Thomas and published in the Deseret News October 5th, 2017.

Nicole Thomas, owner of Gateway Bridal in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City

Nicole is the owner and founder of Gateway Bridal & Prom and LatterDayBride & Prom. Her story in the Rio Grande area began almost two decades ago.

Gateway Bridal located in the Rio Grande and Pioneer Park neighborhood of Salt Lake City

Operation Rio Grande is WORKING!

Her op-ed begins,

“For over 18 years I have lived or worked in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande neighborhood. In 2008 I moved my store at the time, LatterDayBride & Prom, to the south end of The Gateway, directly across from the homeless shelter.

While there I interacted frequently with those experiencing homelessness. There were regulars in the area I came to know well. Four years ago, however, I started to notice a significant change in the demographic of the neighborhood. There was an influx of criminals and those looking only for drugs.

I became more and more frustrated with the lawlessness that overwhelmed the neighborhood. If you did not see it firsthand, you will have a hard time believing how bad things became.

Unfortunately, too many of our community leaders came to accept the status quo or chose not to see it. They had given up on providing residents and businesses here with the same level of basic safety every neighborhood in Utah should have.

During this time my lease with The Gateway expired. While I didn’t want to move, I could not stay; the anarchy was simply too much. So last September I moved to a spot immediately north of Pioneer Park. It was not far from where I had been because I wanted to be part of the solution in helping this area thrive.”

Read the rest of Nicole’s fabulous op-ed on how those living and working in the Rio Grande and Pioneer Park communities have seen the positive change Operation Rio Grande has brought to the area in the Deseret News HERE.

To find out more about the mission of the Pioneer Park Coalition and how you can be a part of the solution, click HERE.

Utah Highway Patrol: A First Hand Account of Operation Rio Grande

Looking for an insiders view of Operation Rio Grande? These guys are out there day in and day out. Check out this great short video where the Utah Highway Patrol offers a first-hand account of Operation Rio Grande and it’s effectiveness.

UHP Troopers Give First Hand Account of Operation Rio Grande

Operation Rio Grande Update

“We are in this for the long haul.”

Lawmakers and Law Enforcement provide an update to citizens on Operation Rio Grande

It’s a hot afternoon in the abandoned lower level of what was once Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Gateway Mall in the embattled Rio Grande neighborhood of downtown Salt Lake City. The room is filled with over 350 people, including many member of our Pioneer Park Coalition, anxiously awaiting an update on what has been dubbed “Operation Rio Grande,” a three-phase plan to eliminate lawlessness, assist the homeless, return the streets to a family friendly environment, and return businesses to a state of success.

Lawless activity, centered around the blatant drug trade, has plagued the area for years, with the Salt Lake City police department doing their best to combat the problem. Their best efforts, however, have been little more than a bandaid. Without a bigger plan, each “sweep” or “cleanup” of the area has lasted only a week or two before the bad guys moved right back in. Enter “Operation Rio Grande.”

Monday, August 14th, phase one of this 2+ year operation went into effect. Yesterday, August 15th, many member of our Pioneer Park Coalition joined residents, business owners, lawmakers, law enforcement, and other citizens to hear an update from those who have been in the thick of things, especially over the last 17 days. We were able to hear from Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Speaker Greg Hughes, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires.

While each spoke individually about specifics to their department, the underlying themes were the same. First, they are in this for the long haul. They are committed. Second, this is an unprecedented operation with commitment and integration on the city, state, county, and private level, with bipartisanship and cooperation. Why do we not see this type of operation very often, they asked. Simple: It’s hard. But they are committed to the operation and bringing the Rio Grande area back. Bringing people, business, and safety back. Third, they need the public’s help. This is a transparent operation and only with help from the citizens of Salt Lake City and surrounding areas can this be a success.

After the individual comments, the panel addressed specific FAQ from members of the audience. We as the Pioneer Park Coalition were pleased with the quality and thoughtfulness of the questions as well as the answers provided. Transparency and honesty prevailed and we feel like this is an amazing first step to an operation that will benefit us all.

A few Operation Rio Grande FAQ and responses:

Q: What are the specifics of the three-phase plan?

A: The following graphic was provided and gives a great overview of the plan, which will move quickly. The first phase started Monday August 14th and phase two will begin Friday.


Q: How can citizens report issues and/or perceived threats in their community?

A: For non-emergencies please call 799-3000. Use your camera on your phone. Take photos and send them to Salt Lake City police. As reports come in, a log is created, people are sent to those areas. In an emergency, of course, call 911.

Q: How will the physical clean-up of the Rio Grande area work?

A: A daily schedule of street-sweeping and cleanup will begin August 16th and continue indefinitely. As a “spidering” effect continues to move the homeless population to different areas and you feel cleanup is needed, please contact the SLC County Health Department.

Q: What is happening to the homeless people’s belongings if they’re arrested?

A: The Salt Lake Police Department is committed to treating every individual equally, including our homeless population. Items are inventoried and held until they can be returned to the owner. Additional personnel have been brought in to help with this task.

Q: What can individuals do to help?

A: Learn about the programs that are available and make donations to support these programs. Do not give to panhandlers, that is one of the biggest problems that we have.  It is now illegal to give (transact) with panhandlers in major thoroughfares. It doesn’t help people and is dangerous! Instead, give through and volunteer through SLCHOST.org.

Q: What are we doing to ensure the civil liberties of these people are protected.

A: ACLU associates are working closely with our government leaders. The Operation is very transparent. We are all working to ensure that those who are needing help are receiving the help they need and by not being forced to associate with those who are there for the wrong reasons.

Q: How has the homeless population responded to law enforcement being in the field?

A: As expected, responses have been mixed. Those with something to hide, who want to continue to live unlawfully without repercussions are obviously agitated. Others, those who have lived in fear and are victims of those who prey on the less fortunate, have expressed gratitude to law enforcement and others involved. The goal is that this gratitude will prevail and that we can feel that gratitude for years to come.

Q: What is the ongoing police presence going to be?

A: Once order is restored, we anticipated it will take much less much less man power to maintain the safety of the area.

Q: Employers have expressed concern as to how they can keep their employees safe as they come to work.

A: One of the greatest resources are the bicycle cops. Call 799-DNTN, and these police officers can address the concerns on a one on one basis.

The meeting ended with Mayor McAdams reiterating the end goal. This is a long haul operation. We must BREAK THE CYCLE! The criminals will serve their time and leave the jail with hope. Those who need treatment will receive it and leave without debilitating addiction. These people can regain their dignity, receive stable and affordable housing, obtain and retain jobs. And BREAK THE CYCLE. The homeless population is invited to come back to the area to receive services. It is safe for you here.

A huge thank you from us at PPC to all those who are sacrificing and working to make this dream a reality.

That is what this is all about, folks. We at the Pioneer Park Coalition are excited and committed to being a large part of the solution in Operation Rio Grande. Will you join us?