Temporary overflow homeless shelter opens in Sugar HouseJan 21, 2020 11h27 ● By Jenniffer Wardell
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall at the January press conference about the shelter. (Photo courtesy Salt Lake City)
By Jenniffer Wardell | [email protected]
More homeless people have the chance for a warm, safe night’s sleep in Sugar House.
Salt Lake City, service providers, Salt Lake County, and state partners have come together to open a temporary overnight warming shelter that will run through April 15. The shelter, which will be located in a vacant building owned by the city’s Redevelopment Agency, will provide 145 beds available to unsheltered individuals throughout the city.
The move came as a result of overfilling concerns at the city’s three Homeless Resource Centers, some of which have left unsheltered individuals sleeping in chairs instead of beds.
“Every single person who seeks shelter during the winter months should have access to a safe, warm place to sleep and the ability to connect with services," said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall during a press conference announcing the shelter. "This is a fundamental human right."
The individuals using the shelter will be bussed there from the Weigand Center, which will continue to be used as a day shelter and a service hub but will no longer accommodate overnight warming. The Sugar House Temporary Shelter will not operate as a day shelter, and will only accept people who can’t be accommodated at one of the permanent Homeless Resource Centers, St. Vincent De Paul’s, or with hotel/motel vouchers.
"This addition to our current resources represents an evolution of a successful and highly functioning system," Mendenhall said.
The building, which was once a Deseret Industries and was most recently a bicycling center, is located at 2234 Highland Dr. It’s available as a provisional shelter under a temporary land use regulation.
"We were lucky enough to have a building that is operable for people to come and stay the night,” said Amy Fowler, District 7 Council representative and a resident of Sugar House.
The temporary shelter, which will be managed by the organization Shelter the Homeless, will have private security guards as part of their staff. Salt Lake City’s Community Connection Team and law enforcement personnel will have an additional presence in the neighborhood and at Fairmont Park while the shelter is operating.
The Salt Lake City Police Department and the Utah Highway Patrol will also be on hand to help provide security for those using the shelter. Fowler, speaking during the same press conference as Mendenhall, spoke about how important a good, safe night’s rest can be for preparing you for the challenges of the following day.
"We owe it to our community members to help them get that rest," she said. "To help them feel safe and warm during these winter months."
Both she and Mendenhall urged residents to reach out and help the local homeless population in whatever way they could. Mendenhall suggested donating to Shelter the Homeless at homelessutah.org, which has a list highlighting the services each donation size provides for residents. In addition to meals, these can also include GED prep and job training opportunities.
Fowler suggested a more hands-on approach.
"Sit with them, break bread with them. Have empathy,” she said. "See what you can do to help our unsheltered communities.”
Still, she thanked the community for welcoming the temporary shelter.
“I have seen the faith in our residents in making sure that every person that we possibly can will have a warm, safe place to sleep during these winter months,” she said.
This is the only year the building will be used as a temporary shelter, since it’s scheduled to be redeveloped before the issue could come up next winter. Mendenhall also said that the city plans to come up with a more permanent solution to the overflow problem before next fall, including more affordable housing options.
"It's time for us to come together and help make a safe and welcoming space for our unsheltered neighbors,” she said.