South Salt Lake City Council wants homeless shelter named after civil rights legend France Davis

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) The new Men's Resource Center (MRC) in South Salt Lake is shown in this Nov. 5, 2019, file photo. Operated by The Road Home, the facility is designed to meet the needs of single men experiencing homelessness. Salt Lake County on Thursday reported the first known case of coronavirus in any of the three resource centers — a man over the age of 60 at the South Salt Lake facility. He has been hospitalized and the center has suspended admitting new clients at the center for the time being.

The South Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday calling on the nonprofit organization that owns the new homeless resource center within its borders to give the facility a name honoring not a powerful donor but Utah civil rights and social justice advocate the Rev. France A. Davis.

The 300-bed men’s resource center on 3380 S. 1000 West is the only one of the three new resource centers that opened in the Salt Lake City area late last year that has yet to be christened. The women’s shelter is named after Geraldine E. King, whose son had donated $4 million for the shelter, while the co-ed center honors Gail Miller, a well-known businesswoman and the owner of the Utah Jazz.

“A lot of the other resource centers are named because of big donations,” said South Salt Lake City Councilwoman Natalie Pinkney, who sponsored the resolution, during the council’s Wednesday work session. “While Pastor Davis wasn’t giving a donation, I feel like he’s done such great work and he’s been recognized throughout the state. I feel like it would be a great gesture.”

During his long career of service, Davis — who retired from Salt Lake City’s Calvary Baptist Church late last year after 46 years at the pulpit — worked for fair housing laws, educational opportunities and improved health care. He served for a decade on the state Board of Corrections and was the first black member appointed to the statewide Board of Regents, which oversees higher education.

Pinkney told The Salt Lake Tribune prior to the vote on Wednesday that she thinks the mission of the South Salt Lake resource center and Davis’ work align and “that alignment to be of service of people should be greater than money."

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Pastor France Davis will retire after more than 45 years at Calvary Baptist in Salt Lake City. He is seen in the church's sanctuary on Monday, December 16, 2019.

South Salt Lake doesn’t have the power to force Shelter the Homeless, the nonprofit organization that owns the three resource centers, to name it after Davis, Pinkney said. But it does send a strong message of support for that move from the representatives of the community that hosts the shelter.

Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday night that the board is considering several names for the South Salt Lake resource center, which opened in November.

“The final decision to name the building will ultimately be decided by the Shelter the Homeless Board of Directors,” which is scheduled to meet Thursday and will likely discuss its options during a closed session, Cochrane said in a message.

Also on Wednesday, The Road Home, which operates the South Salt Lake resource center, announced that its board of trustees had selected interim executive director Michelle Flynn to fill that position permanently.

In a prepared statement, Flynn said she appreciated the confidence of the board of trustees in selecting her to serve “and to further build upon the strong foundation the organization has laid with its mission to help people step out of homelessness and back into our community.”

“I look forward to working with our dedicated board of trustees, staff and countless volunteers to continue to create a significant and lasting impact for those most vulnerable in our community,” she added.

Flynn, who was chosen after a national search for a new director, has worked at The Road Home for 25 years and served as its associate executive director for the last 15. She took over as interim director after Matthew Minkevitch, the longtime executive director of The Road Home, was fired last November after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.