The Road Home is celebrating the removal of all families from its 210 S. Rio Grande St. homeless shelter, with the caveat that more affordable housing will be needed as shelter capacity is reduced.
Staffers worked into the night Friday to meet an ultimatum set in May by the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee: Clear out the downtown shelter's family wing and stop admitting families there, or forfeit $2.4 million in government funding.
If a family shows up at the shelter now, Road Home staffers will take them to the family shelter in Midvale "or make other arrangements," read a newsletter update to Road Home supporters.
Executive Director Matt Minkevitch said last week that The Road Home may begin to give out motel vouchers as an intermediate step for "housing-ready" families to clear space for others in Midvale.
That shelter's 300 beds are commonly full. The Road Home says it has served more than 500 people in homeless families in a single night.
"[T]he prospect of decreasing shelter capacity requires our community to increase the real number of affordable housing units and streamline the process for people to exit homelessness," it read.
The family relocation is an early step toward the planned July 2019 closure of the 1,100-bed 210 So. Rio Grande St. shelter, which is surrounded by a bustling drug market that has drawn the attention of political and business leaders.
Three new shelters set to replace it — two in Salt Lake City and one in South Salt Lake — would have about 400 fewer beds in total. Officials say they can decrease demand by shortening periods of homelessness with better-coordinated services.
But Salt Lake City's affordable housing market, like those in most of the nation's urban areas, is constricting. The metro area saw a 26 percent decline in units costing less than $800 per month between 2005 and 2015, using inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars.
To relocate families, The Road Home received an additional $500,000 in state-allocated federal funds that it used to hire new housing staff.
"In this process to move families from the Salt Lake shelter, we have been in continuous, candid and thoughtful conversation with our government, funding and nonprofit partners," the nonprofit's newsletter read. "It is a significant step in changing the trajectory for improved service delivery and housing for people experiencing homelessness."
Forty-two families were moved into supported housing from June 1 to July 15, while others "resolved their episode of homelessness through their own means with the help of The Road Home staff," according to The Road Home newsletter.
A total of 102 families entered shelter during the period, of which seven were diverted. Twenty-nine other families were diverted before entering shelter.
Editor's note: This story was edited to clarify a detail about how many people were served on The Road Home's busiest night.