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Salt Lake City homelessness leaders break ground on 65-unit housing complex

Salt Lake City homelessness leaders break ground on 65-unit housing complex

(Scott G Winterton, KSL)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is about to get 65 more units to help house some of the most vulnerable among the homeless.

Leaders broke ground Monday on The Magnolia, a permanent supportive housing facility to serve up to 65 single men and women with on-site services to help them transition out of shelter and into housing.

“This has been a community effort, a Herculean effort on many fronts,” said Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, the owner of the facility and Utah’s newest homeless facilities finished just last month.

After more than three years of work and with help from Salt Lake City, a variety of funding sources and loans, the nearly $17 million facility at 165 S. 300 East will help people transitioning out of homelessness as part of a larger, mixed-income, 248-unit housing development called the Violin School Commons that will also redevelop the former Salt Lake City public safety building at 315 E. 200 South.

“We will soon have 65 units available for those most in need,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “What is truly special is that these units, these spaces of opportunity, will not be on the margins of our city, but right here in the heart of our city, amongst a mixed income development, demonstrating that Salt Lake City is truly a place for everyone.”

Monday’s groundbreaking marked a “bittersweet moment,” said the outgoing mayor, whose term is ending after she chose not to seek reelection. It was the last time she would participate in a groundbreaking for affordable housing as mayor.

“For the past four years, Salt Lake City housing experts have worked tirelessly to address the affordable housing crisis that we are facing, never losing sight of the idea that every unit we bring online represents a life that will forever be changed,” Biskupski said, crediting her staff with helping build over 2,500 affordable housing units during her administration.

The Magnolia — developed by Cowboy Partners, owned by Shelter the Homeless and operated by the Road Home — will be the Road Home’s newest addition to its housing program, which currently includes 201 units at Palmer Court, 32 units at the Wendell Apartments, and hundreds of other stand-alone supportive housing units and single-family dwellings throughout Salt Lake County.

The Magnolia was made possible through a variety of deals and funding sources, including a $1.5 million Salt Lake City Housing Trust Fund loan, a $12-a-year land lease from Salt Lake City, over $10.5 million in tax credit equity, $2 million from the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, and $1.3 million from Zions Bank in short-term financing.

Michelle Flynn, interim executive director of the Road Home, said projects like Palmer Court and The Magnolia sometimes face challenges and “seem like they’re going to die over and over again,” but she credited its success to “tremendous dedicated commitment from an incredible team” who know how permanent supportive housing can impact lives.

“What we know is that we need The Magnolia, and we need an even greater array of types of deeply affordable and supportive housing in order to see the success that we have to have in our newly launched homeless services system,” Flynn said.

The “overarching vision” of the new system and the new homeless resource centers is to ensure homelessness is “rare, brief and nonrecurring,” Flynn said, calling for continued commitment from state, local and federal leaders to invest in “all kinds of supportive housing,” including types that haven’t even been thought of yet.

“The Magnolia will help our community achieve these goals by providing refuge and relief to the men and women who have experienced long and chronic homelessness,” Flynn said. “Individuals who have been through incredible trauma in their lives, who are living with a disabling condition and are seeking housing with support they can access on-site.”

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As leaders celebrated Monday’s groundbreaking, they were bundled against the frigid and snowy weather.

“How fitting that the reason for our temporary discomfort is to celebrate the creation of a project that will provide shelter for people who have lived their lives experiencing the constant and oppressive discomfort of being outside of community, discomfort from perhaps living on the streets, in doorways or parks, or living in a car with no heat,” said Claudia O’Grady, vice president of multifamily finance at Utah Housing Corp.

“Today,” she said, “we get to begin a new story for some of our homeless friends.”

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Katie McKellar

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