Hello  !

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It has been almost one year since I began this work on the City Council. I have enjoyed it immensely and hope that I have served you well.

One of the most difficult and perhaps beneficial work that we have done is related to creating a new homeless services model, including building new homeless resource centers in Salt Lake City. As many of you are aware, Salt Lake County, in coordination with Salt Lake City, has launched a full reevaluation of how we deliver homeless services across the region in an attempt to more effectively decrease homelessness. This has been ongoing for almost two years and will continue on for several more. 

While we work to expand services to other communities throughout the Wasatch front, as the capital city, we are the leader in this effort and have decided to invest in creating a different model for dealing with homelessness. One of the first concrete stepsOne of the first concrete steps was for Salt Lake City to determine where new homeless resource centers/ emergency shelters should be located, a task that I have been working on with the City Council, Mayor’s administration and Site Evaluation Commission for the past year. There was much public outreach last summer and fall online and in various locations around the city. The City asked residents and people experiencing homelessness about what the new facilities should include and their ideas for solving the current problems around the Rio Grande shelter. The result of that outreach was a set of guiding principles that were used to evaluate how to change the current shelter system.

Andrew Johnston
City Council Member District 2
📞 801-535-7781
Amber McClellan
City Council Liaison District 2
📞 801-535-7600
Homeless Resource
Centers Information
📞 801-535-7704

Scattered Site Criteria

Based on the Salt Lake City public opinion, as well as research into the best practices across the country, we pursued a scattered site model of service, where services are offered at multiple locations spread out across the city. We also determined to make these facilities much smaller (no more than 150 beds per facility); focus on making them safer for clients, neighboring residents and businesses; place them within easy access to frequent public transit like UTA Trax and busy bus lines; and create new buildings that were both inviting and humanizing for those who need to use them and beautiful for their neighborhoods. These are commitments that we have made and we are taking steps to fulfill. 

Legislative Funding

Funding for these facilities was granted by the State Legislature who have attested to the increasing homeless problems as both a humanitarian problem and increasingly, an economic one for all of us, especially Salt Lake City. The State Legislature committed to funding $27 million towards these facilities and made clear the expectation that we needed to demonstrate rapid progress. The City was asked to have sites selected by November of this year. As you can understand, this was a very tight deadline for completing a public process, determining criteria, locating appropriate properties, and purchasing them. 

Four New Homeless Resource Centers

This past week, the Mayor and City Council publicly announced four specific locations on which we intend, in coordination with Salt Lake County, to build four new homeless resources centers:
  • 653 East Simpson Avenue (approximately 2250 South)
  • 275 West High Avenue (approximately 1500 South)
  • 131 East 700 South
  • 648 West 100 South
We are careful in using the term “resource centers” to be clear that we do not intend to replicate The Road Home in other locations. The Road Home has offered housing resources in addition to emergency shelter for many decades but has outgrown its current location. It has also, too often, been left to deal with homelessness without much support in the form of housing, and other resources from the city and county. As we shift the entire system to focus all our efforts on promoting housing and self-sufficiency for those experiencing homelessness, our emergency shelters will also change to look more like the new Volunteers of America Youth Resource Center on 888 South 400 West. That modern building offers temporary services in all areas of a youth’s life to help them stabilize and return to participating in society, while also having minimal negative impact on their neighborhood, and in some ways elevating their environment through good design, public service and outreach to improve their street.
* Please note that the renderings above are examples only, and are used to illustrate size and shape in reference to the surrounding area.

Additional Facilities/Efforts

On its busiest nights this winter, The Road Home has sheltered over 1,000 individuals at the Rio Grande location and roughly another 320 at its family shelter in Midvale. The Road Home’s governing board, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have agreed that once the new centers are open, the current Rio Grande location of The Road Home will be phased out. You would be right to ask if we are only adding four buildings with 150 beds each how we will handle the current need?

The county is planning to open two detoxification and mental health programs (one for men and one for women) outside of Salt Lake City that would each house about 90 people. In addition, Salt Lake County proposes opening a new family and community resource facility in 2018 that will provide housing and other services. The Road Home plans to continue to operate their family shelter in Midvale. Salt Lake County is also working to decrease the number of individuals who leave jail and become homeless as well as the number of people remain chronically homeless through two “collective impact” programs that are paid for up front by private investment money. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have also engaged other cities across the Wasatch Front and elsewhere to help them participate in these efforts by providing services for their homeless citizens closer to where they live instead of relocating to Salt Lake City for services. All of this is geared towards decreasing the number of those who are acutely homeless and moving the system towards rehousing people as quickly as possible.   


The Salt Lake City Council recently budgeted almost $21 million towards helping develop more affordable housing, some of which would be used for families and individuals who are currently homeless. We are currently evaluating the most efficient and effective means for leveraging those dollars as well as how much more we will need to make a serious momentum shift in helping Salt Lake City become more affordable for all of us. Recently, a state commission under the direction of the lieutenant governor recommended increasing the number of affordable housing units across the state to alleviate some of the housing crisis we are currently experiencing (some estimate our vacancy rate to be close to 2% when we would hope to have it at 5-7%). All of these efforts will take some time, but we believe they will help decrease the growth in our homeless numbers, and create safer and more effective continuum of services to help people move out of homelessness much more quickly. 

Public Concerns

With the announcement of the sites this week, there has also been understandable concern voiced by some citizens that they have not been involved in the process enough leading up to the announcement. There have been fears expressed by neighbors that their community safety and property values will decrease, among other things. A couple of explanations are offered here to address those. The intent of the process has always been to be as open and transparent as possible. 

Public Outreach

Public outreach was pursued throughout the summer and fall both in community meetings and  Open City Hall (see Homeless Resource Center Location Criteria Survey information under “closed topics”), as well as through City Council Members and the Mayor’s public engagement staff. We understand that some may have missed these or been unaware of the efforts for various reasons, but all avenues possible were pursued to get public input. The administration worked hard at evaluating the entire city based on the  criteria compiled from those outreach efforts and other research and created a map of the city showing possible areas that would and would not work well for these buildings. Based on this information, they then secured real estate services to locate possible sites within compatible areas. The plan was for the City to put money down on 12-18 potential sites, and then outreach with the public to whittle down to four final sites that the Mayor, in consultation with the City Council, would endorse. 

However, when actual compatible properties were identified and pursued, there were not as many available as had been hoped. Combined with the deadline set by the legislature, these hurdles made getting further public input infeasible. There was also the desire to avoid creating battles among neighborhoods that would really harm in the discussions. So, the administration and council agreed to go ahead with purchasing the four properties and make the decision as a group. In January, the public will have several opportunities to weigh in on the sites and the discussion of actual building design, which population will be served in each location and other service decision will begin. We are also very interested in meeting with anyone who would like to discuss the process and the outcomes thus far. 

Decreasing Property Values

Decreasing property values has come up as a point of opposition to hosting a facility in a neighborhood. While this seems to be a common shared opinion, there are no facts available that support it. Local experience around existing and new facilities has shown increases in land values and national research has also borne this fact out as well--new service facilities actually raise contingent property values. City staff can provide specific data if people would like to research this. The biggest influence on property values would be how properties are maintained and managed Who will run the facilities and how they will do so is even more critical than the actual locations.

Public Safety

We have heard concerns about neighborhood safety in light of the new resource centers. Throughout the process thus far, the Salt Lake City Police Department, current homeless clients and service providers have provided their insights into crime and protective factors that would influence the safety in and around any of the facilities. 
  • Site Design
    Sites were selected, in part due to how few streets could access them, to decrease the drive by drug business and manage who comes to the buildings. The architects who will design the spaces will be very aware of where the buildings are placed and how they are designed to eliminate using public sidewalks or spaces for lining up, or hanging outside the facilities. These properties will also offer daytime services where people experiencing homelessness can stay during the day instead of have them leave and return in the evenings, which currently leads to the crowds on 500 west or in Pioneer Park near the current Road Home facility. In addition, the Police Department currently deploys many officers to the Rio Grande neighborhood due to the confluence of so many people there. With spreading the new buildings out, they plan to redeploy those officers to the new sites to manage issues that arise. 
  • Building size and capacity
     Perhaps the biggest change will be in decreasing the number of people in each facility to 150. That is one-eighth the size of the current shelter. By spreading the buildings around the City, we will not have the accumulating effect of the current setting. We also hope that as a City, we will share the housing of the resources and collectively help everyone live up to neighborhood standards. While we must have compassion to access the strength to help those who are homeless, we must also not lower community standards in helping everyone become self-sufficient.

Public Workshops
Citizens from throughout the City are encouraged to share their views at one of three upcoming workshops in mid-January.
  • January 11, 1:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m.
  • January 11, 6:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.
  • January 18, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

All workshops will be held at the Public Safety Building, 475 South 300 East.

For questions, comments, and concerns please email the City's dedicated email address homelessinfo@slcgov.comYour input will be shared with both the Mayor and Council Members. For additional information please visit the homeless resource centers website.

We hope you will be able to attend.


Andrew Johnston
Salt Lake City Council Member
District Two  
Salt Lake City Council Office
451 South State Street, Room 304 PO Box 145476,  Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4576

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