Closure of downtown homeless shelter delayed again

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) One of the Bed rooms at the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center on 700 South in Salt Lake City, Friday, June 14, 2019.

The timeline for closing The Road Home’s downtown shelter and making the final transition to three homeless resource centers has been pushed back by several weeks following a wet spring that caused construction delays, project partners said Friday.

The Legislature initially set a June 30 deadline for the downtown shelter to shut its doors, but state officials earlier this year announced they wouldn’t meet that target and pushed the closure to mid-September. Now, they’re delaying it again to sometime in October.

Preston Cochrane, executive director of the Shelter the Homeless nonprofit that will own the three resource center properties, said the move-in date for the new 200-bed women’s shelter will have to wait until late July or early August to allow for the hiring of staff and training. Volunteers of America will run the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center at 131 E. 700 South.

“We want to give them enough sufficient time to come, learn the inner workings of the building, be able to have their staff here, before they start transitioning clients,” Cochrane said Friday during an interview inside the King center. “We want to allow enough time so that we’re not doing this just because of a timeline.”

The second shelter, the Gail Miller Resource Center at 242 Paramount Ave. in Salt Lake City, will accommodate 200 men and women and is on track to open in August or early September. The third shelter, which will house 300 men in South Salt Lake, is scheduled to open in September or October, a delay from the original July 1 target, according to the updated timeline.

Kathy Bray of Volunteers of America said the plan is to transition women from The Road Home shelter to the women’s center over a couple weeks.

“We want to make sure that we’re gentle about that,” she said. “Change is hard, and we’re going to take our time to make sure that we give them enough of a chance to orient to the building, to get comfortable, to get set up.”

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. While Volunteers of America is staffing the women’s shelter, Catholic Community Services of Utah will run the Gail Miller Center and The Road Home will operate the men’s facility.

Cochrane said the new facilities will be state-of-the-art, and the Geraldine E. King location will be outfitted with Google Fiber as part of a digital inclusion initiative. Utah Community Action will handle intake at the three centers and will assess each client to find the best placement for him or her, Bray said.

Bill Tibbitts, associate director of Crossroads Urban Center, a nonprofit that assists low-income Utahns, said he has mixed feelings about the delay.

"I think it is a bit concerning that they've waited until basically two weeks before the new facility is supposed to be open to tell people that there's going to be a delay," Tibbitts said.

At the same time, he said, "I guess it's better to delay than to push forward and do things wrong and make mistakes."

Mike Akerlow, a member of the steering committee for Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, said he understands the difficulty of adhering to construction schedules.

“Knowing how real estate development works, it was a tough timeline to meet. I think they’ve done a really good job on getting things moving,” said Akerlow, CEO of Community Development Corporation of Utah. “I think everybody feels the urgency of this and wants to see them [the resource centers] opened sooner than later, so any delay is disappointing.”

The ribbon cutting for the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center will be June 21.