SOUTH SALT LAKE — Before moving into an apartment at Sharon Gardens 18 months ago, Rick Dornick spent four months at the Road Home shelter in downtown Salt Lake City.
"The other place I was at wasn't a tenth as good as this," Dornick said. "I really like it, really like it."
State officials are hoping to re-create the success Dornick has found staying off the streets and in the South Salt Lake apartment complex for low-income senior citizens with a new "100 More Housed" initiative. The effort dovetails with other programs as the capital city prepares to open two of three new homeless resource centers in June.
"It's an exciting time for our friends who are experiencing homelessness right now as we provide a new way and a better way for them to get the services they need and get back on their feet," Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday at a news conference announcing the initiative.
The program will provide 100 eligible people experiencing homelessness with vouchers, totaling more than $1 million in value, to move into market-rate housing.
Participants will pay 30 percent of their income toward housing and the voucher will pay the remaining 70 percent.
Thanks to $400,000 of funds appropriated by the state Legislature, four new case management workers will be hired to help those experiencing homelessness to find housing. The appropriated funds will also cover the costs of application fees, deposits and other steps needed to remove barriers to housing.
Each case manager will manage about 25 clients for the 100 More Housed initiative, which is about average, according to Jonathan Hardy, director of Housing and Community Development in the state's Department of Workforce Services.
About half of the nearly 700 people staying at the downtown Salt Lake Road Home shelter on any given night are long-term stayers, Hardy said.
The new initiative is targeted for this demographic, he said.
Dornik's case manager helped him get his apartment through a county housing budget, he said. He's also able to afford it with the help of the state's Home Energy Assistance Target, or HEAT program, which helps eligible households pay for home heating, cooling and other energy costs.
"I need the vouchers to get part of the rent paid," he said. "The rent's too high for me. … Without vouchers, forget it."
Dornik said he likes "everything" about his apartment, specifically its private bathroom, new appliances, amount of cupboards and lights, and the spacious closet.
"The solution to homelessness is housing — deeply affordable housing," said Janice Kimball, CEO of Housing Connect.
The solution to homelessness is housing — deeply affordable housing.
–Janice Kimball, Housing Connect
The initiative comes just one month after the Utah Legislature wiped the funding from a high-priority affordable housing bill — backed by housing and advocates for the homeless, as well as developers — from its original $24 million fiscal note to $0 the last night of the session.
"We're not done asking for it," Cox said. He also said he was disappointed the bill didn't pass. "We wouldn't need that bill if there wasn't a problem."
Officials said they're aiming to have the 100 people housed before the closure of the Road Home's downtown shelter in September.
The 100 More Housed is an effort headed by Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Homeless Resource Center Transition Committee, Shelter the Homeless, The Road Home, Catholic Community Services, Utah Community Action and Volunteers of America, Utah.
Hardy said the area's moving to a new "more-effective" model to address homelessness, where the focus is on shortening the time people spend homeless and giving people stable housing.
Cox added the only way this is possible is through affordable and available housing units.
The new homeless centers will have fewer beds combined than the current downtown facility and the initiative is aimed to address this gap in services by helping transition people out of homelessness into stability, allowing the shelters to service short-term stayers.
"We have to get people out of homelessness and back on their feet," he emphasized. "That's a really important part of it."
"And then we don't just forget about them," Cox said. "We want to make sure we're there helping them every step of the way."
He continued, saying they want to take a holistic approach to homelessness and case managers will help clients find work, access important resources and facilitate a relationship between the tenant and landlord.
Cox urged Salt Lake area landlords to participate in the program and provide available units to those who've been homeless. Finding willing landlords has been a challenge because of low awareness and education about the program, he said.
"We desperately need you to help," Cox pleaded, addressing landlords. "We desperately need you to participate. We have vouchers, we have tenants and we have case managers."
He said property managers and landlords can sometimes be hesitant to take vouchers, but Cox assured that the vouchers are stable and even beneficial to landlords since it ensures rent is paid on time.
"If you haven't done it before, it might seem like a burden," Kimball said, explaining why landlords might be hesitant. "But if you really educate them and explain the benefits, I think the biggest benefit is consistent on-time rent."
If a regular landlord runs into an issue with a tenant, they're on their own, Kimball said. But in this program, because the tenant has an assigned case manager who helps facilitate the relationship to the landlord, a participating landlord can receive extra support handling issues, she said.
Interested landlords can contact Dennis Faris with Housing Connect at 801-284-4442 or DennisFaris@HousingConnect.org.