Downtown News and Blog

Homeless Shelters Transition: We Must Provide Refuge and Assistance to Those in Need

November 22, 2019 Written by Derek Miller

Published in Downtown News and Blog

Derek Miller, President & CEO, Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance

As Shelter the Homeless is following through on plans to build and staff new resource centers and has closed the Road Home shelter on Rio Grande Avenue, some are expressing concern that people in need will literally be left out in the cold. These concerns are borne out of empathy and compassion — great qualities of our community.

Fortunately, the Road Home and other direct service providers have committed that people seeking shelter will be provided for through the transition with arranged housing, the new facilities and overflow shelter mechanisms. Thanks is due to Catholic Community Services, Volunteers of America and The Road Home for operating the new resource centers.

The Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance support the new Resource Center Model that Shelter the Homeless is implementing. We recognize that the end goal is not getting people into a temporary shelter, the goal is to help people achieve housing and income stability, food security, and get the health services they need.

Yes, there is potential for oversight in a large-scale transition. Shelter the Homeless partners must manage the transition this winter with outreach, communications and transportation solutions.

In addition to the new dispersed resource centers, the 4th Street Clinic, Catholic Community Services and St. Vincent’s will also operate some services downtown. The downtown community must stay engaged in helping people access the services they need at the resource centers best suited to serve them. 

Beyond this involvement, we must also increase efforts and broaden strategies to engage the service-resistant people currently camping on the streets and in the foothills. We must help them find sustainable shelter solutions, and get those in need of mental health and drug treatment care. Addressing the needs of those camping on the streets is a uniquely difficult challenge and distinct from addressing the needs of those transitioning to the new shelter locations.

Downtown Alliance Street Ambassadors patrol the Central Business District daily to engage people in need, direct them to resources, arrange transportation and schedule appointments for them with caseworkers in the new resource centers.

How can you help? Give to the service providers that can positively intervene and support individuals in need. Please donate directly to Shelter the Homeless to double your donation due to the generosity of the Miller Family match. We strongly encourage people not to give to panhandlers, which perpetuates their dependence on the unsustainable and unsafe path of living and sleeping on the street. 

Anyone seeking shelter or resources is encouraged to call 801-990-9999