Homeless service providers call for donations moving into cold winter months

As temperatures drop and winter draws nearer, service providers for the Salt Lake County area’s three new homeless resource centers are asking the community for donations to support people experiencing homelessness.

They need things like underwear, socks, hats, coats, gloves, travel size hygiene items and first-aid kits. They’re also asking for volunteer hours and monetary donations, according to Matthew Melville, homeless services director for Catholic Community Services of Utah.

“As we’re getting closer and on the cusp of some really cold weather here even this weekend, we switch our model over from the summer and fall donations to winter donations to help people stay warm,” he said Friday.

Two of the new shelters are already up and running: the 200-bed men’s and women’s resource center on Paramount Avenue, which will be operated by Catholic Community Services of Utah, and the 200-bed women’s center at 131 E. 700 South, run by Volunteers of America Utah.

The latter, which also runs a youth resource center in Salt Lake City, lists on its website its “urgent needs” as new men’s and women’s underwear and socks, men’s pants, sleeping bags, winter boots and feminine hygiene products.

The 300-bed men’s resource center in South Salt Lake, which will be managed by The Road Home, planned to open next month. After the third and final shelter is up and running, The Road Home’s downtown shelter in the Rio Grande neighborhood is expected to close its doors and the state plans to demolish the building and sell the land for about $4.2 million.

The transition to a new system for delivering homeless resources has been touted as a way to provide a full suite of services for people experiencing homelessness rather than just a bed to sleep in. Clients at the new centers have access to breakfast, lunch and dinner; basic health care; job assistance; and housing assessments, among other amenities.

But already, the new shelters have run into some trouble, with “unprecedented” numbers of homeless women seeking services filling up the beds and causing concerns for some advocates that there may not be enough space for people who need it in the coming months.

The state has been exploring options for how to keep people warm during the cold winter months when the overflow shelter at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall is full. At one point, leaders were even considering opening a shuttered liquor store and adjoining warehouse to take homeless individuals out of the cold, an idea they say is no longer on the table.

Donors can bring items to the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or to St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall during the same hours. Volunteers of America Utah and The Road Home will continue to take donations through their normal avenues, as well, Melville said.