Construction crews began tearing down the walls of Salt Lake City’s former downtown emergency homeless shelter Monday, marking the symbolic end of an old model for providing services for the area’s unsheltered populations.
It’s unclear, for now, what’s next for the site of The Road Home’s former shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande St., which is owned by the state and located in a prime area for new development as downtown expands westward.
“We will finish the demolition, we will make the property safe, clean it up, make sure that there’s nothing dangerous on-site, and then we’ll put it up for sale,” Marilee Richins, deputy executive director of the state Department of Administrative Services, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday.
The 1.17-acre property will be listed sometime next month for $4.4 million, Richins said, and will stay on the market for about four months."
Salt Lake City ordinance typically requires a viable building plan before approving demolition. But the state is not subject to those requirements and has not provided any information to the city about the reuse of the site, Salt Lake City Planning Director Nick Norris said in an email.
The state bought The Road Home for $4 million — a $3 million discount — in 2018, despite Salt Lake County assessors having pegged the value of the property at roughly $7.7 million for tax purposes.
Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said at the time of that announcement that no decision had been made for the future use of the property but noted one idea was to use the space for storage and display of historically significant items.
Matthew Melville, homeless services director for Catholic Community Services, which operates the nearby Weigand Homeless Resource Center, said he hopes whatever is built there will serve low-income Utahns.
“The only accepted reuse of this property would be affordable housing and permanent supportive housing,” he wrote in a tweet Monday. “We would welcome them with open arms as our new neighbors.”
While state and local officials have identified a lack of affordable housing as a major contributor to homelessness, the housing crunch also presents challenges to moving people off the streets. Even those with federal rental assistance often struggle to find a place that meets the requirements of their housing vouchers in a tight market where landlords often give preference to those with a clean rental history.
In addition to running the Weigand day shelter, Catholic Community Services also operates one of the three smaller homeless resource centers that replaced The Road Home’s 1,100-capacity shelter. Clients at the new centers, which have a total 700 beds, have access not only to a place to sleep but also to breakfast, lunch and dinner; basic health care; job assistance; housing assessments; and other amenities.
Catholic Community Services announced last week that it would not renew its contract this summer to run the 200-bed men’s and women’s resource center in Salt Lake City.