Shelter the Homeless, the nonprofit that owns the Salt Lake City area’s three new homeless resource centers, announced Friday that The Road Home will take over operations of its 200 bed men’s and women’s shelter next month.
The move comes after Catholic Community Services, the previous operator, said earlier this year that it would not renew its contract to run the Gail Miller Resource Center in Salt Lake City over concerns about the financial cost of operating it.
Michelle Flynn, executive director of The Road Home, said in a news release Friday that the organization was “honored” by the invitation to run a third resource center in the Salt Lake Valley.
“Our goal has always been to ensure people move out of homelessness and into housing, by providing excellence in service delivery, leveraging our team’s experience, making data-driven decisions, and developing innovative housing programs,” she said. “With this in mind, we feel well-positioned to now provide exceptional service at the Gail Miller Resource Center.”
The Road Home also operates the 300-bed men’s resource center in South Salt Lake and the Midvale Family Shelter. Before the opening of the three new resource centers late last year, The Road Home ran Salt Lake City’s now-demolished emergency shelter in the Rio Grande neighborhood, a facility that had space for 1,100 people.
Volunteers of America Utah runs the 200-bed women’s center in Salt Lake City.
Gail Miller, former owner of the Utah Jazz and a board member for the shelter that bears her name, said in a statement Friday that The Road Home “will play a critical role in the safe operation of the Gail Miller Resource Center," located at 242 W. Paramount Ave.
“We appreciate their commitment to serve the women, men and children in our community who are experiencing homelessness, not only at this resource center, but across Salt Lake County,” she said. “The months ahead are some of the most challenging for our homeless population and knowing we have professional and qualified teams in place to help meet our clients' needs is essential.”
Among the challenges Salt Lake City’s homeless resource centers have been grappling with in the past few weeks are the state’s rising coronavirus cases. The Gail Miller Resource Center saw a big spike late last month in the number of cases within its men’s and women’s shelter, but Salt Lake County is now estimating there are just 35 active cases within the system as of earlier this week.
The resource centers are also bracing for a cold winter that could exacerbate the ongoing capacity challenges within the three new resources centers, which have space collectively for about 400 fewer people than could fit on beds and mats in The Road Home’s old emergency shelter.
Last winter presented one crisis after another for the system as temperatures dropped dangerously low and too many people sought access to too few beds.
This year’s recommended winter capacity plan, put together by the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, calls for using hotel vouchers for up to 80 women and using St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall as an overflow space for up to 40 men beginning earlier this month.
Funding has also been secured to keep operational the hotel Salt Lake County opened earlier this year to protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19. That hotel, which the county has declined to identify, has space for 130 people over the age of 60 or with underlying health conditions.
But because of the coronavirus, homeless service providers are anticipating a need for more overflow options than ever to accommodate social distancing. The coalition is currently on the hunt for money to convert existing facilities for shelter and is also looking at the possibility of acquiring a facility to use as a long-term, permanent or as-needed solution during the winter.
Other options that homeless services leaders considered, but are not moving forward with, include creating a sanctioned encampment, lifting the statutory occupancy limits at the homeless resource centers, and establishing a safe parking program for car camping.