Road Home’s executive director Matthew Minkevitch fired after domestic violence arrest

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Matt Minkevitch, The Road Home executive director for decades, is shown here in a recent file photo at the new men's homeless resource center in South Salt Lake. Minkevitch has taken personal leave just as the downtown shelter is nearing closure and the new model of homeless services is set to kick in.

Matthew Minkevitch, the longtime executive director of The Road Home, was fired Friday evening after news broke of his domestic violence arrest earlier this month.

The nonprofit organization, which is one of Utah’s largest homeless service providers and also operates a family shelter in Midvale, announced earlier Friday that Minkevitch was taking a leave of absence, but did not specify why or how long he’d be gone. The later announcement of his termination also does not say why he was fired, citing the nonprofit’s confidentiality and privacy policy. It said Michelle Flynn, associate director of programs, had been named interim director.

The announcement comes about a week after Minkevitch was arrested at his Plain City home on suspicion of three counts of domestic violence in the presence of children and one count of criminal mischief, all class B misdemeanors. News of the arrest came to light Friday afternoon.

(Photo courtesy Weber County Sheriff's Office) Matthew Minkevitch

While Weber County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Cortney Ryan couldn’t confirm Minkevitch was the same Minkevitch arrested Nov. 7, The Salt Lake Tribune linked the former executive director to the arrest through public records.

The earlier Friday statement said Minkevitch had requested the leave of absence.

According to a probable cause statement, Minkevitch’s daughter called police that November night, saying she could hear her parents arguing and things being broken.

When Weber County deputies arrived, they said Minkevitch was sweeping up a pile of dirt in the kitchen and noted “many broken items throughout the first floor of the home.”

Minkevitch reportedly told police that he and his wife were arguing about “his job and how committed he is to it," and he threw objects, flipped the kitchen table in frustration and also broke two lamps and a decorative tree. He said he yelled at his wife, but didn’t throw anything at her.

Three children were home at the time, police said.

Minkevitch was charged Nov. 9 in Plain City Justice Court in connection with the altercation. His wife has since filed a protective order against him, court records show. The pre-trial order bars him from communicating with his wife and his three children.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges during an arraignment Tuesday.

Walter Bugden Jr., Minkevitch’s attorney, said in a statement that his client was cooperating with the investigation and will address it in court.

He added, “[Minkevitch] has dedicated the last 17 years of his life to helping the homeless population. He is passionate about helping the homeless. His fears and frustrations about the adequacy of bed space for the homeless this winter spilled over into his home life. He has expressed his fear that people will freeze to death without shelter.”

Minkevitch’s departure comes ahead of the high-profile closure of its downtown emergency shelter in the Rio Grande neighborhood and as the organization is set to move to a smaller, 300-bed resource center in South Salt Lake next week.

Minkevitch has served The Road Home for nearly 20 years. The organization, in its earlier statement, praised his “undying dedication” to the shelter’s mission throughout that time.

A statement later Friday quoted Greg Johnson, Road Home board president, as saying he was grateful for Flynn stepping in “at this transitional time.”

“We are confident that she and the entire Road Home team will continue to work to ensure that The Road Home remains strong in fulfilling its lifesaving mission to help people step out of homelessness and back into our community,” Johnson said.

The change in leadership comes during a critical transition for The Road Home, which is one of three service providers that will operate a new system for delivering homeless services in the Salt Lake City area.

Proponents of the transition have said the dispersed shelter model will better serve the homeless with a full suite of services centralized within each center, including breakfast, lunch and dinner; basic health care; job assistance; and housing assessments.

But the transition has been dogged by delays and growing concerns about capacity as the winter months grow closer. The new centers will collectively have space for 700 people — about 400 fewer than could fit in The Road Home’s downtown shelter.

Already, the new female-only resource center and the facility for men and women are filled to capacity and service providers have been using St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall as an overflow space for women since last month. The Road Home’s center in South Salt Lake is the last to open.

Homeless advocates and community members have called for The Road Home’s 1,100 capacity shelter downtown to stay open through the winter, worried that its closure could have a negative impact on the homeless community and could even result in deaths. On Tuesday, a group packed and temporarily shut down a Salt Lake City Council meeting, calling on the City Council to keep it open.

The decision of whether to close The Road Home rests not with the City Council or the nonprofit but with the state, which owns the building and has indicated its intention to shutter the downtown building following the opening of the South Salt Lake facility.

State leaders and others involved with the transition have promised that no one who seeks shelter will sleep outside during the winter. They plan to provide overflow space for men at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall and to provide motel and hotel vouchers for women who can’t get a bed in the resource centers.

They are also in the midst of a four-week housing push to move people off the streets and open up space in the shelter. As of Tuesday, the city said three people had been placed so far and that 36 were in the pipeline.