Gary Herbert on Tuesday signed a bill to provide services to the homeless for the first time since a federal judge ordered that state agencies not provide them with services.
The measure was introduced by Republican state Sen. Mike Schulz, a former state police officer who is also a Republican.
The measure now heads to the House.
The new legislation would allow homeless people to have their own shelter in Utah and to get the mental health and substance abuse services they need at least 30 days before they need to leave, Schulz said.
The state would provide free housing and rent to those who need it, as well as services to help with housing and job placement.
Utah is the only state in the country to allow this.
“This is an important step toward ending homelessness in Utah,” Schulz told the Associated Press news agency.
“We are at a turning point in our state, and we need to take this to the next level.”
Homelessness in Utah was at a record high in 2017, but that has declined over the past several years.
The Trump administration said in March that it was rescinding a policy that allowed states to provide limited emergency services for people in shelters or other temporary facilities without providing the services to people in actual need.
Homeless advocates said that would be a major step forward in helping people in need, but Utah’s state budget has already been cut by nearly $300 million this year.
“The goal is to provide people with dignity and stability,” Schul said in a statement.
“The fact that the state has taken this action is a good thing, and it’s going to give us an opportunity to provide those services.”
The state is not alone.
California is working on a similar plan to expand its homeless services.
And in Washington, D.C., the state is moving forward with plans to spend $8 million to help people with HIV, alcoholism, and other issues.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month blocked Utah from enacting a similar law, ruling that a federal court ruling that states cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would not apply to the state.
The governor of Idaho, Mike Leavitt, also signed a measure Tuesday to provide shelter for homeless veterans in his state.
Leavitt said the measure is part of a larger effort to get veterans the help they need.
“They are hurting and they are struggling, and they deserve it,” he said.
“They are a family to me, and I want to give them that support.”