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29 People Experiencing Homelessness Have Connected With Housing Through Salt Lake Pandemic Program

Photo of downtown Salt Lake City.
Brian Albers / KUER
Salt Lake County started a program to safely house at-risk individuals, like older people or those with underlying medical concerns, during the coronavirus pandemic. The program has led to a number of people entering more permanent housing.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Utahns have been encouraged to stay safe by staying home. But for people who don’t have a home, that can be an impossible task. 

Salt Lake County’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Hotel Program is for people whom Katherine Fife, the county’s director of programs and partnerships, called “the most vulnerable among the most vulnerable” during the pandemic. 

That includes older people or those with underlying medical conditions.

“We realized that we have a large number of individuals within our homeless services system who fit those categories,” Fife said. 

She said they've essentially rented out an entire hotel —  they have capacity for 136 individuals — and have filled it with unhoused people who need extra help. The program also provides support from caseworkers, mental health experts and even meal delivery services, so people don’t have to leave their hotel rooms if they don’t feel safe.

It’s also leading to long-term housing solutions. Monica Mason, who heads the Stay Home, Stay Safe Hotel Program with The Road Home, said 18 individuals have moved out of the hotel and into more permanent living situations, and 11 people have been placed in assisted-living facilities. 

“With just such a close eye, we have so many staff checking in with people, we have so much support at the hotel that we’ve been able to really identify when somebody isn’t taking care of themselves,” Mason said. 

She described one person who was at the hotel who sought assistance through a homeless resource center earlier this year. When she started the hotel program, Mason said the client worked closely with a case manager to apply for low-income housing. 

Mason said the client moved into an apartment she could afford in May.

“She did this with a little bit of support, but she worked so hard and was able to get out,” Mason said.

Fife said the pandemic has highlighted the lack of resources available to people experiencing homlessness, particularly at-risk folks like those served through the hotel program.

“To be able to provide long-term places for individuals who really need it would be the long-term goal,” she said.

For now, the program has been extended through the end of August.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

Correction 11:17 a.m. MDT, 7/23/20: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how many rooms were available to program participants.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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