Salt Lake City’s Project Homeless Connect provides one-stop shop for people living on the streets

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mike Ibarra gets a haircut from Cody McCluskey at Project Homeless Connect, where community volunteers to provide services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday Oct. 25, 2019. At left is Ariel Betancourt.

At Salt Lake City’s third annual Project Homeless Connect event Friday, people experiencing homelessness had a chance to receive haircuts, dental services, housing assistance and more.

The one-stop shop for resources, hosted at the Salt Palace Convention Center, is meant to provide services people may find challenging to access otherwise. Approximately 900 community volunteers were on-site, according to the city.

While the services are expected to primarily help those living on the streets, the event also provided resources for people at risk of becoming homeless, including residents in permanent supportive housing or affordable housing. In 2017, the event brought out more than 500 volunteers and about 784 people experiencing homelessness. Last year it was even larger, with about 800 volunteers and 844 people served.

This year’s event comes as the Salt Lake City area is undergoing a massive shift in the way people experiencing homelessness access services and amid the potential of a bed shortage as winter draws near.

Homeless service providers and politicians have long raised concerns that the 700 beds spread across three new resource centers built in the Salt Lake City area would not fit the needs of the city’s growing population. Under the old model, The Road Home’s downtown emergency shelter had space for about 400 more people, including on beds and cots. That is slated to close.

Already, within the two new resource centers now open — which provide a full suite of services for people experiencing homelessness rather than just a bed to sleep in — beds are currently full and some homeless women who have had trouble getting in have had to sleep instead at the overflow center at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall.

Numbers also look worrisome for men once the South Salt Lake shelter, the third and final resource center to open, becomes operational next month.

That’s left some to call for The Road Home to stay open past the winter — a move Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said earlier this week will be under discussion at an upcoming emergency meeting of local and state leaders that will determine how to move forward if additional overflow is needed.