News / Utah / 

Temporary homeless shelter opens in Sugar House to warm welcome from neighbors

Temporary homeless shelter opens in Sugar House to warm welcome from neighbors

(Ivy Ceballo, KSL)


2 photos

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sheer pink glitter ribbons adorn light poles and tree trunks leading to the driveway of a building that once housed a thrift store and then a bicycle shop. The glass atrium entrance is plastered with poster board signs welcoming visitors to the neighborhood.

“Our doors are open!”

“Stay warm!”

“You are loved!”

It is the Sugar House neighborhood’s way of sending a message of welcome to those seeking a warm place to sleep for a night at the city’s new temporary shelter, 2234 S. Highland Drive.

“We as a neighborhood, obviously have concerns about transient populations,” said Tamerin Smith, who lives a block and a half from the temporary shelter. “I’ve lived here for over 15 years, right on Fairmont Park. We’ve always had homeless. ... But we have an empty building. And we need a solution. These are real people with real problems, and we’ve got a solution here.”

About seven hours before the shelter, which has room for 145 people, began its first night of operation, those responsible for coming together to open the temporary facility gathered for a news conference, even as construction workers finished modifications to the space.

“I would say this is a Herculean effort, on many fronts,” said Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, which owns all three Salt Lake County homeless resource centers. “To get the building ready, and in the last several days, and all the transportation, beds, and everything that goes with that, literally people here working around the clock.”

Posters showing neighborhood support decorate the entrance of the temporary Sugar House homeless shelter in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. The new shelter, which will provide cots, mats and blankets, opened Thursday night. Photo: Ivy Ceballo, KSL
Posters showing neighborhood support decorate the entrance of the temporary Sugar House homeless shelter in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. The new shelter, which will provide cots, mats and blankets, opened Thursday night. Photo: Ivy Ceballo, KSL

Cochrane said the organization reached out to community partners it works with on a regular basis in trying to pull together what was needed to be able to open Thursday night. The building is owned by the city’s Redevelopment Agency, while cots were donated by the Red Cross, and blankets were donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Intermountain Healthcare will take care of daily laundry service, and three private security officers from Premier Security will staff the shelter from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. every day through April 15. There will also be two to four people from various nonprofits at the shelter providing services to those seeking refuge.

Those who want to check in to the new temporary shelter will do so at the downtown Wiegand Center between 7 and 11 p.m. each day. There will be buses to take people from the Wiegand Center to the Sugar House shelter.

“We want to make sure everyone has a safe, warm place to say,” Cochrane said. “The resource center may not be for everyone.”Cochrane said the organization reached out to community partners it works with on a regular basis in trying to pull together what was needed to be able to open Thursday night. The building is owned by the city’s Redevelopment Agency, while cots were donated by the Red Cross, and blankets were donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Intermountain Healthcare will take care of daily laundry service, and three private security officers from Premier Security will staff the shelter from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. every day through April 15. There will also be two to four people from various nonprofits at the shelter providing services to those seeking refuge.

Those who want to check in to the new temporary shelter will do so at the downtown Wiegand Center between 7 and 11 p.m. each day. There will be buses to take people from the Wiegand Center to the Sugar House shelter.

“We want to make sure everyone has a safe, warm place to say,” Cochrane said. “The resource center may not be for everyone.”


We’ve always had homeless. ... But we have an empty building. And we need a solution. These are real people with real problems, and we’ve got a solution here.

–Tamerin Smith, who lives near the temporary shelter


The same day the temporary shelter opened, Catholic Community Services of Utah announced it would not be renewing its contract this June to provide services at the Gail Miller Resource Center.

“We fully support the new model, but based on the budgetary constraints and our mission of self-reliance, we have determined that it is in the best interests of our clients, donors and staff for CCS to preserve our funds for those services at which we excel and which our clients expect from us.”

Cochrane praised Catholic Community Services, and said he understood the group’s decision.

“I think operating a resource center is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “Offering a 24-7 facility is very challenging, and I think Catholic Community Services, they’ve done a fantastic job. ... I think they want to use their resources elsewhere, and as Shelter The Homeless looks at who the new provider will be, our board will convene and talk about what the next steps will be.”

Salt Lake City Councilwoman Amy Fowler said they’ve known there were issues with the number of beds countywide since September when the state made the decision to close the Road Home’s downtown shelter, something originally planned for June. As the weather turned cold, it quickly became apparent there was a desperate need for temporary or overflow beds.

“We were sitting there saying ‘What’s going to happen?’” she said. “And then we got to the point where we needed something to happen. I applaud the current mayor, Mayor (Erin) Mendenhall, and the administration for acting quickly.”

Fowler said the city volunteered the building, and then it was a matter of gathering resources and creating a plan, but also reaching out to residents and making sure there was an embrace of any effort.

Related:

“I said from the beginning that I believe in my community,” Fowler said. “I live just down the street, and I know a lot of the neighbors that live in the neighborhood who live around here. I believe in the compassion and empathy of my community. And I know that there are concerns. I have concerns, and there are unanswered questions, but we’re working through those.”

Smith said no one living in the area is unaware that there are people sleeping outdoors, mostly in nearby Fairmont Park. She said residents are concerned about their own safety, but also about the health and welfare of those living on the streets.

“We’re a compassionate neighborhood and we want to see this homeless situation solved,” Smith said. “And if we can be a part of that solution, we want to be involved.”

David Litvack, senior policy advisor in the mayor’s office, said even though the transition from one large shelter — the Road Home — to several smaller homeless resource centers in Salt Lake County has not always gone smoothly, it’s a move in a direction that feels positive for both residents and those struggling with housing issues.

“The biggest lesson here is, tomorrow we start planning for next year,’” Litvack said. “And we make sure that our overflow system ... is consistent with what we want the system to be. We want it to be housing focused. We need to make the big push on housing, and we need the community to be working with the legislature this year, and the affordability commission, and Sen. (Jacob) Anderegg, to really push affordable housing.”

He said the reality is there are many reasons for homelessness, and those trying to address associated issues need to be mindful that one size will not fit all.

“We have a very diverse homeless community,” Litvack said. “And we need to understand that not all services fit everywhere. We are going to have individuals who are unsheltered, and we need to start thinking about ... how we best serve that community.”

Correction: An earlier version misidentified Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, by the last name Hoffman.

Photos

Related Stories

Amy Donaldson

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast