HOUSING + HOMELESSNESS

Deeply affordable housing for seniors and veterans experiencing homelessness unveiled

May 18, 2023, 6:24 AM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 1:02 pm

Chuck Layton, who recently had all of his toes amputated due to frostbite he endured while homeless...

Chuck Layton, who recently had all of his toes amputated due to frostbite he endured while homeless this winter, hugs his brother Kevin Layton during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a deeply affordable housing project in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It has been over five years since Chuck Layton and Kevin Layton, whom some call “The Brothers,” have slept entirely alone.

Chuck Layton, 74, and Kevin Layton, 70, have slept in numerous vehicles, countless tents, on rare occasions in a homeless resource center and often on the streets of Salt Lake City. For the first time, the two brothers now have their own studio apartments located at The Point Fairpark at 130 N. 2100 West.

The 100-unit deeply affordable housing project operated by Switchpoint was unveiled in a ribbon cutting Tuesday and will provide housing to seniors and veterans. Among new residents are the Layton brothers, who went from living in a camp on the street into housing with a 20-minute phone call.

Last week, their cousin contacted former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson who phoned Carol Hollowell, the Switchpoint Community Resource Center executive director. When Hollowell arrived at the brothers’ camp on 1300 South and 500 West in a pickup truck, she had three questions: Are you a senior? Do you have income? Do you want to be housed?

“I couldn’t even finish my sentence when they said, ‘Yeah,” said Hollowell who promptly began to help the brothers load their belongings into the truck.

“If you would’ve asked us five years ago, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ It sure as hell wasn’t here and it sure as hell wasn’t in his condition,” said Kevin Layton, tearfully. “We had good parents and that’s what keeps us going, is our upbringing.”

The brothers had purchased a motorhome for shelter but it was impounded twice and several other vehicles had previously been impounded. Before the impounds, the brothers often would welcome other people experiencing homelessness inside during freezing temperatures. They would sometimes throw their visitors’ belongings onto the roof and below the vehicle to create room inside, Kevin Layton recalled.

After the vehicles were taken, the brothers began to sleep in tents in homeless encampments. Chuck Layton had been sleeping in a tent this winter when his toes became frostbitten and were later amputated. He would also later face sepsis and nearly die.

Despite the challenges, Chuck Layton and Kevin Layton still make each other laugh. Ahead of his surgery, Chuck Layton recalled that he had drawn across his toes in marker, writing “cut here,” joking that despite the instructions, the amputation still wasn’t straight.

The close bond between the two is apparent, but Kevin Layton jokes that for $450 a month they’d like their own studio apartments. Every studio apartment at The Point Fairpark will be rented at $450, including utilities. The building was placed in a 50-year deed of trust to ensure it would be utilized as deeply affordable housing for that length of time.

“Deeply affordable housing means that we are reaching out to people on fixed incomes … and they cannot find anywhere in our city, in our counties somewhere that they can afford to live,” said Hollowell. “That’s why we chose to have this be the $450 for seniors and veterans because in my mind, they don’t deserve to be on the street when they have money.”

The number of veterans and seniors on fixed incomes experiencing homelessness has been on the rise. Deeply affordable housing has been championed as a solution for a portion of the population experiencing homelessness. Despite the need for deeply affordable housing, it can often be hard to accomplish, lamented State Homelessness Director Wayne Niederhauser on Tuesday.

“I have to ask why is it so difficult for us to put these things together?” Niederhauser asked. “You’ve got to make it easier.”

The first phase of the project is almost complete, with construction still ongoing as of the ribbon-cutting on Tuesday. Residents continue to work to help bring the project to completion, caulking windows and building pavilions. The next phase of the project — referred to as the “magic sauce” by Hollowell — will include a community center and wraparound services for residents.

But David Dangerfield, Switchpoint Community Resource Center president, encouraged everyone to look beyond the construction.

“Think about those who are going to be the residents here. They come with some difficulties and some challenges, and they’re not quite maybe what they want to be, what they hope to be,” Dangerfield said. “Just envision what this project will look like, but more importantly, we want you to help our residents envision what they will be able to become.”

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Deeply affordable housing for seniors and veterans experiencing homelessness unveiled