SALT LAKE CITY — An “unprecedented” influx of state and federal cash for homelessness and housing is expected to flow into Utah this year — something members of the state’s religious community see as an opportunity to radically reduce the number of unhoused people in the state.
Their “big idea” for how governments should spend the money? Buy underused motels and hotels and convert them into permanent supportive housing for people who don’t have shelter.
“We’re in a time where the hotel industry is distressed,” noted Bill Tibbitts, associate director of the Crossroads Urban Center, in outlining the concept during a panel discussion on Thursday. “There are people who might welcome the opportunity to get out of the business. So it makes [sense] and it’s being done in other places.”
The concept is already playing out in Oregon, he noted, which last year announced it was purchasing 20 motels with the goal of moving 2,000 people out of homelessness. It also wouldn’t be new to Utah, which is home in its capital city to Palmer Court, a retrofitted hotel for previously unsheltered individuals that opened in 2009.
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