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Future Shelter Closure Makes Some Homeless Uneasy

Bob Nelson

As Salt Lake City moves to build four new homeless shelters in the next few years and close The Road Home, there is some anxiety among people who are staying at The Road Home.

It’s Friday Morning on Rio Grande Street, in Salt Lake City. The skies are going dark. A storm is coming.

I strike up a conversation with 34-year-old Adam Smith, who is camping outside of The Road Home. He has some understanding of the city’s plans.

“There’s no affordable housing in place,” Smith says. “They kick people off the street. They don’t want them camping, yet they’re going to shut the place down?”

Smith is worried about the capacity of the new shelters, which will drop from about 1,100 beds to 600 at the four new facilities.

“So what did they do to help us by doing that? Not a damn thing,” Smith says. “Did they come talk to us. Find out what we need?”

Smith says getting housing assistance takes too long and is too arduous. So he stays out here.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said on Tuesday, aggressive housing initiatives are underway to fill the gap that Smith is worried about with the closure of The Road Home. This year, Salt Lake City committed $21 million to affordable housing among other efforts.

“We are very hopeful that if we can get the housing component piece of this in place the way we envision it we probably will not need another resource center in the county,” Biskupski said.

Construction on the new sites will begin in 2017. The Road Home shelter will close when those shelters are complete.

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