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New temporary shelter will be first-of-its-kind for homeless in Utah

Posted at 4:16 PM, Sep 14, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A new approach to help the homeless in Salt Lake City was unveiled Thursday in hopes of transforming empty property into a temporary shelter.

City officials, including Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Utah’s homeless services coordinator Wayne Niederhauser, detailed the plan for the shelter that would house 50 people on land along 300 South and 600 West.

Unlike other congregate shelters, the new camp would be a place for people to have a whole unit for themselves. They can stay in those units as long as they live there, without having to leave and come back at a certain time. Security and access to other resource services would be available to help residents move to a permanent home.

“This was the location that felt that we could bring services to most efficiently, including power," said Mendenhall. "There is sufficient space for all those units that could be brought in.”

Each unit will have 4 walls, a door that can lock, heating and cooling units, lighting and electric outlets.

The city and state are continuing to work on finding a provider who can build and manage the new shelter, which is Phase 1 of a planned project. Officials hope to use what they learn from the shelter to build a more permanent housing solution in the middle of next year.

Community organizations are excited about the potential for the space. Carl Moore, chairperson of Unsheltered Utah works with people on the ground who are experiencing homelessness.

“This place is going to help," he reflected. "It’s always going to help, whenever you have something that is sanctioned, that is validated by the city, so that the police can’t come in and take their stuff outright, that’s always a good thing.”

Kseniya Kniazeva with the Nomad Alliance hopes that the city consults organizations that directly with people experiencing homelessness, and thinks that would help more people trust the space.

“They do not trust the big institutions that have been serving them for so long, because they’ve squandered that trust by not following through on what needs to be done to get people help when they need," she said. "We believe that it needs to be a grassroots effort. We love this population, we know them by name, We’ve served them for years.”

Mayor Mendenhall added that the Salt Lake City Police Department and Downtown Ambassadors will work on keeping the area safe for people who live there and surrounding neighbors and businesses.