Temporary homeless shelter in Salt Lake City to open in Sugar House

Jan 16, 2020, 9:40 PM | Updated: Jan 17, 2020, 9:15 am
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall says a new temporary homeless shelter will be opening in Sugar House next week. Photo: Kelli Pierce

SALT LAKE CITY — Two years after community opposition torpedoed a proposed Sugar House location, Salt Lake City will open a temporary homeless shelter there.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall unveiled the planned 145-bed facility Thursday.

A new homeless shelter in Salt Lake City

The city will spend at least $5,000 to turn the old Deseret Industries building at 2234 S. Highland Drive into a shelter, complete with working heat and plumbing. The city’s Redevelopment Agency currently owns the building.

The shelter would only be open nights. Both men and women are welcome at the facility, though they will be housed separately.

The facility will offer daily transportation to and from the downtown Weigand Homeless Resource Center, a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City that operates during daytime hours.

The new temporary shelter in Sugar House is scheduled to stay open until April 15th, 2020.

Homeless resource centers are at capacity

Mendenhall made it clear that she believes the current shelter system is working, but acknowledged that many places are at capacity.

“Our ability to truly serve the unsheltered population relies on our ability to be agile and to work dynamically to serve evolving issues [and] emerging issues,” Mendenhall said.

She also expects community groups will help staff the new facility.

The mayor also referenced past difficulties in getting a homeless shelter opened in the neighborhood.

“While we know that we are yet again asking Salt Lake City and, in particular, residents and businesses in Sugar House to take on this critical humanitarian effort, I am confident that our community will do this with compassion and with understanding,” Mendenhall said.

Better reception this time?

Council member Amy Fowler, who represents the area, thinks people will be more welcoming of a shelter this time. She adds that she recently asked her constituents for ideas on how to help the homeless.

“Every single email that I got back, every single response on NextDoor that we got back was, ‘Isn’t there an old building somewhere that we can use?'” Fowler says.

Some Salt Lake City homeless activists are still concerned the building will not be ready to house people so quickly because of possible heating and plumbing issues.

The city council will hold a special meeting at 4:30pm on Friday to possibly enact temporary zoning regulations to let what is a commercial building right now serve as an overnight homeless shelter in the future.

Related stories: 

Salt Lake officers say repeat protesters want to antagonize, not to help homeless

Safety measures for pedestrians coming to the new Homeless Resource Center

Emergency homeless meeting comes amid frigid weather concerns

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Temporary homeless shelter in Salt Lake City to open in Sugar House