A new homeless resource center at 242 Paramount Avenue in Salt Lake City that is scheduled to open its doors just weeks from now received a name on Thursday.
Shelter the Homeless, a nonprofit organization that owns the three centers coming on line this year, announced Thursday amid a flurry of construction that it will be named after Gail Miller, a well-known businesswoman, the owner of the Utah Jazz and the state’s wealthiest resident.
"The important thing here today is not that a name is being put on a building,” Miller said at a news conference announcing the decision. “It’s what the building represents and this building screams dignity. It means that those who are suffering can find a place to restore their dignity and reclaim their lives and become part of society in a meaningful way.”
The Gail Miller Resource Center, which will be operated by Catholic Community Services of Utah, is scheduled to open in July and will house 200 men and women as part of a shift in homeless services across the county.
The impending closure of the 1,100-person capacity Road Home shelter downtown and the opening of smaller resource centers — two in Salt Lake City and one in South Salt Lake — has been billed as a way to provide a better system for delivering food, medical care, employment assistance and case management to people experiencing homelessness.
Each center will serve specific populations and offer access to health services, a full mobile medical clinic and onsite case managers to help with things like job counseling. They are modeled to support eight primary impact areas: housing, wellness, employment, education, safety, legal rights, community engagement and positive social support, according to homelessness advocates.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said at the event Thursday that the old model “was based on warehousing,” while the new centers will offer a place where people “can come and get the resources they need so homelessness can be brief.”
Miller was one of the “architects” of the new model, Cox said, serving as co-chair of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Commission on the Homeless and playing an active role on the State Homeless Coordinating Committee.
“Gail and her family have given not only money but time,” said Shelter the Homeless President Harris Simmons. “They’ve given all their energy to try to help eliminate homelessness here in the Salt Lake Valley and as a board we felt that we would be missing a great opportunity if we didn’t recognize these timeless efforts by someone that we all have really come to love throughout this community.”
Harris, CEO of Zions Bancorporation, noted that Miller had “not asked for this honor” or made a contribution with the aim of having a building named after her. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday that the Miller family foundation had made a $5 million donation to the Salt Lake County Council — a gift that appeared in county documents to be contingent upon their renaming after the late Larry H. Miller.
The Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation has agreed to match contributions to Shelter the Homeless up to $10 million. To date, the nonprofit has received $4.6 million that will be used for services within the resource centers.
Before today, only one of the shelters had a namesake: the 200-bed homeless women's resource center at 131 E. 700 South will be named the Geraldine E. King Women's Resource Center. Her son, businessman Pat King, gave $4 million toward construction of the building.
The third shelter, which will house 300 men in South Salt Lake, is scheduled to open in mid-September and has yet to be named.