SLC’s legal homeless camp to open this month under direction of ‘tried-and-true provider’

The contract to operate the legal campground is set to run through April 30.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Shelter pods sit at the planned legal homeless camp in downtown Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.

Salt Lake City’s legal homeless camp is set to get up and running this month after state officials took a second crack at finding an organization to run the site at 600 West and 300 South.

Switchpoint, a prominent homeless services provider, will oversee the sanctioned camp, the state Office of Homeless Services announced Friday.

“The introduction of the micro-shelter program, in conjunction with the existing 600-plus beds for Salt Lake County’s winter response, signifies a notable expansion in our array of solutions, aiming to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring” state homelessness coordinator Wayne Niederhauser said in a news release. “This initiative not only provides immediate relief but also aligns with the overarching goal of addressing the root causes of homelessness, paving the way for stabilization among those in need.”

The announcement of Switchpoint as the service provider comes after the state’s first attempt at finding an operator fell flat, delaying the camp’s opening. None of the applicants to the first request for bids met the requirements for running the site.

Officials with the state’s homelessness office did not say when specifically the site would open, but Niederhauser has previously said he hoped to have the camp operational by mid-December. The request for bids from potential service providers lists the operating dates as Dec. 15 to April 30.

While state officials went back to the drawing board on finding a provider to oversee the site, setup at the camp continued.

The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency-owned site features 25 pods that will be able to house up to 50 people in private rooms. Each pod is equipped with heating and cooling units, electricity, fold-up beds and tables with seating.

The camp that is slated to open this month is the product of a partnership between the city and state and the first of its kind in Utah.

In the news release, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she was thankful for close collaboration with state officials on the initiative.

“Switchpoint is a tried-and-true provider that will help accelerate the process of opening this new shelter model,” she said, “providing our most vulnerable neighbors another safe option this winter.”

The portable units featured at the camp are due to be moved to a state-led site next year.