First 100 women have relocated from The Road Home to homeless resource center

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) People gather for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Geraldine E. King Women's Resource Center, one of three new shelters that will replace the downtown emergency shelter, June 21, 2019.

The first groups of clients have moved into the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center, the initial step in a larger transition in homeless services in and around Salt Lake City.

The shift of women from The Road Home’s downtown shelter to the resource center at 131 E. 700 South began last week, with about 100 relocated to the 200-bed facility so far.

"So far, it's been going good. Normal glitches that happen when you open a new building and have new processes, but the women seem content," said Cathleen Sparrow, chief development officer for Volunteers of America, Utah, which is operating the shelter.

The changeover is pausing briefly while some finishing touches are put on the building, but the VOA hopes to have it completed within the next few weeks, Sparrow said. Salt Lake City Councilman Andrew Johnston, vice president for program operations with VOA, said he expects the facility will fill up in the next two weeks.

“The feedback from the women is really, really positive,” he added Tuesday night. “I mean, some women are nervous about leaving what’s been their home for a while and that’s understandable. And so we’ve had a lot of staff on both sides, The Road Home and VOA, working with them and there’s no pressure to leave at this point. We just don’t want to push that too hard until they’re comfortable.”

The women’s resource center is the first of three shelters slated to open this year in a transition to a dispersed model for providing homeless services, which previously have been concentrated in the Rio Grande neighborhood. After all three are open, The Road Home’s downtown shelter is expected to close.

The Gail Miller Resource Center, a 200-bed coed facility on Paramount Avenue, is scheduled to open next, in late August to early September. A 300-bed men’s resource center in South Salt Lake is slated to come online in September or October.

The three facilities have been billed as a one-stop shop for resources, including case management, job training and housing assistance, and are meant to help people move off the streets and out of the cycle of homelessness for good. Women at the resource center are already working with case managers, and meal service has also begun, Sparrow said.

One woman who moved into the resource center has already transitioned out of emergency shelter and into more permanent housing, Sparrow said, adding that The Road Home had laid the groundwork for the shift.

“I thought that was amazing,” she said.

On Tuesday, a legislative subcommittee held its afternoon meeting inside the King center as members discussed homeless services.

Rep. Paul Ray said he was “very impressed” by his first visit to the facility.

“It’s a much cleaner, safer environment, and I think it’s going to do what it was intended to do,” said Ray, R-Clearfield, chairman of the House Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

While the transition to the resource centers has been delayed, Ray said he thinks the partners involved are largely on the right track, although he remains concerned about the South Salt Lake facility.

That shelter was originally supposed to open at the end of June, but its completion was pushed back in part due to a rainy spring and complications in getting the necessary approvals for construction in South Salt Lake. Financial setbacks have also contributed to the delayed timeline, and Ray said he and other lawmakers plan to examine these challenges in coming months.

- Salt Lake Tribune reporter Taylor Stevens contributed to this report.