Utah homeless shelter to close, protesters seek extension

November 8, 2019 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Demonstrators are raising concerns after state and city officials announced plans to close a homeless shelter as winter approaches.

The Road Home shelter has housed homeless people and families for decades but is scheduled to close in about three weeks, Salt Lake City officials said. Before its closure, the remaining 300 of its 400 occupants are scheduled to move into a new resource center in South Salt Lake.

The current shelter could become unsafe from estimated overflow making it difficult to monitor and staff, city officials said. The new center is one of three smaller facilities opened to offer comprehensive services.

The other two new homeless resource centers are running at anywhere from 91% to 95% capacity, said David Litvack, deputy chief of staff for Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupsk. An overflow center at the Catholic Community Services of Utah’s St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall is already being used.

The city should keep the shelter open until April, argued more than 100 protesters at a Thursday rally. Finding sustainable solutions would take longer than the time allotted until the shelters closure.

It is a mistake to close the shelter on Rio Grande Street before leaders are confident the new resource centers have enough capacity to handle the area’s homeless population, rally organizer Crystal Yazzie told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Twenty property owners have offered 77 additional units to help those in need move into local housing, city officials said. The hope is that with additional housing options, more people would have the opportunity to get off the streets.

“No one is being turned away,” Litvack said. He expects the ongoing plan would help homeless individuals achieve “long-term success.”