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Shelter Scrambles To Find Housing For Families By Deadline

The Road Home Shelter in Salt Lake City signed a contract with the state to move every family out of the facility by July 15th or lose funding. Now, the pressure is on to find low-income housing.

Here at The Road Home, 13-year-old Johnathon Whaley rides the big yellow cart he and his mom are using to move their belongings out of the private room they’ve lived in for about eight months. Lorie Tonge and her son have a new one-bedroom apartment-just down the street.

I'm feeling uplifted, knowing that I never gave up.- Lorie Tonge

"I'm feeling uplifted knowing that I never gave up," Tonge says.

After a surgery in 2015, Tonge says she could no longer work and was evicted. She’s since relied on her strong faith and self-reliance to get her through the difficulty of living in a homeless shelter. 

“If we were insulted or saw anything horrible, I made sure that it didn’t make me depressed or anything, so I just kept going,” she says.

Safety is one reason state policy makers decided that families should move out of the shelter, which is set to close in June of 2019. Three new, smaller shelters will replace it. The Road Home got some state funding in May to jumpstart housing efforts. Fifteen families at the shelter right now need a place to go. Michelle Flynn is associate director of programs at The Road Home. She says a few landlords have come forward with units, but rents are competitive.

“Our staff, our housing locators, our case managers, our shelter staff are working tirelessly, long hours, right alongside those families who are also working tirelessly,” Flynn says.

But the flow of families into the shelter isn’t stopping, Flynn says. On average, 50 new families seek emergency shelter at The Road Home each month. She has some confidence that the city, county and state officials are stepping up to deal with the affordable housing gap.

“Our challenge is getting that gap filled in the economy that we have now with the potential of further cuts on the national level for housing and urban development,” Flynn says. “These are all things that we have to watch.”

Families who don’t immediately find housing will be taken to the family shelter in Midvale or given hotel vouchers if that shelter is full.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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