SALT LAKE CITY -- On any given day, about 50 homeless youths walk into the Volunteers of America center on State Street in Salt Lake City, looking for food and shelter.
At the end of the day, though, they have to be sent back out onto the streets. But that could all change with a proposal to build an overnight youth shelter in downtown.
“We’re probably one of the larger metropolitan cities and states that don’t have a dedicated homeless youth shelter,” said Zach Bale, chief development officer at VOA.
After seeking the funding and space for such a project for years, the Salt Lake City Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the VOA to construct their shelter in an empty lot at 800 South 400 West.
“We’ve been living in a small shoebox of a home for a long time,” Bale said.
The plans call for constructing a 2-story building, with 30 beds for emergency shelter for homeless youth, ages 15-22.
“We have a handful of our youth, you know, a percentage that camp, even throughout the winter, on the outskirts of the city, along the Jordan River,” Bale said. “And we have another percentage of youth that will squat in abandoned buildings, parking garages.”
With a new facility in place, Bale is hopeful they will be able to provide both temporary housing and a sense of home to those who need it.
“You know, a place of love, a place where I can get up and go to the bathroom, take a shower, a place to lay my head, a place where pets are,” Bale said. “You know, all of those things are important for us to be supported. And the youth that we serve don’t have that.”
To finance the project, VOA received a state grant totaling $500,000, approved during a previous legislative session. The rest of the multimillion dollar plan is expected to be covered through private donors.