State won’t take over homeless shelter in South Salt Lake — for now — as negotiations continue

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The men’s homeless resource center in South Salt Lake, September 4, 2019.

The nonprofit that owns three new resource centers located in the Salt Lake Valley is pumping the brakes on an effort to convey the shelter property in South Salt Lake to the state.

A majority of Shelter the Homeless board members had voted via email in July for a proposal to execute a deed to the state for $100 upon the building’s completion — an effort to resolve a standoff over a permit needed to open the resource center at 3380 S. 1000 West.

The 15-member board was expected to ratify that decision at Wednesday’s board meeting but instead discussed an amended permit proposal from South Salt Lake. Jon Lear, a member of the nonprofit organization’s board, said it looks like the city and nonprofit are closing in on an agreement that would keep the shelter property under South Salt Lake’s oversight.

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” Lear said during Wednesday’s meeting. “But it appears as if we can resolve most of the difficulties that existed.”

Jodi Hoffman, an attorney who is helping South Salt Lake work through its conditional use permit process, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday that delay of the nonprofit’s vote on conveying the shelter to the state will “keep our negotiations going” and is a sign of a “good faith effort on everybody’s part” to resolve issues between the two groups.

The board didn’t take any formal action on the matter at Wednesday’s meeting. The nonprofit will continue its negotiations with the city in hopes of bringing an agreed-upon permit to the South Salt Lake Planning Commission later this month, Hoffman said.

South Salt Lake’s new draft permit, a copy of which Hoffman shared with The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday, retains several items Shelter the Homeless has found objectionable, including that the average length of stay for clients not exceed 90 days unless the mayor declares an emergency and that resource center staff check each client for outstanding arrest warrants.

Gone, though, is a refusal to accept walk-in clients for intake at the center unless they have a referral and a proposed requirement that the nonprofit provide compensation for any police and fire service to the 300-bed resource center beyond what the state has already covered

The latter was among the biggest concerns for Shelter the Homeless, which, as a nonprofit, doesn’t have money available to reimburse the city, according to Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless.

The nonprofit had originally threatened to turn the process over to the state if the city did not finalize its resource center permit by July 19 to the satisfaction of both parties. But Harris Simmons, board chairman for Shelter the Homeless, said arriving at an agreement with South Salt Lake would be “the best outcome for everybody.”

The opening of the new centers is part of a larger shift away from a centralized model for providing services. Each will serve specific populations and offer access to health services, a full mobile medical clinic and on-site case managers to help with things like job counseling and finding housing.

The shelter has already faced multiple delays as a result of rainy weather, challenges getting the necessary approvals for construction in South Salt Lake and, most recently, because of millions in past-due bills for construction. The completion date of the resource center has been pushed from Aug. 31 to mid-October as a result, with move-in dates uncertain.

But Lear said the nonprofit has since managed to extinguish some of those “financial fires.”

Shelter the Homeless has secured a $21 million bridge loan from Salt Lake County in an effort to fill an immediate funding gap. And Simmons, also the chairman of the board of directors of Zions Bank, personally offered a $400,000 interest-free loan to Shelter the Homeless, according to an email obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune. Half of that cash he requested be returned to him once the nonprofit obtains financing from Salt Lake County. The rest will remain outstanding until the debt incurred by Salt Lake County is paid off.