HOUSING + HOMELESSNESS

Winter overflow beds for homeless open up as temperatures cool

Oct 18, 2023, 8:00 AM

several people sit at a table to eat a meal...

Unsheltered individuals are seen having lunch at St. Vincent de Paul Center. The center opened Monday for winter overflow, adding 65 temporary beds for the season. (Don Grayston, Deseret News)

(Don Grayston, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The first emergency winter overflow shelter beds of the season for Utah’s homeless opened on Monday, with St. Vincent de Paul providing 65 of what officials say will be 600 beds this year.

The Salt Lake County Winter Response Plan was finalized at the Utah Homelessness Council meeting on Sept. 21 and intends to feature a variety of shelter options for those seeking shelter amid the winter months. County officials had submitted the coordinated plan on Aug. 1 in accordance with state law, which requires counties of the first class — meaning with more than 1 million people — to annually prepare plans for winter “aimed at augmenting bed counts and developing transportation strategies.”

In addition to the 65 beds being provided at St. Vincent de Paul’s overflow, each homeless resource center across the county will be making an anticipated five winter beds available per day totaling 175 beds across the system.

Initial implementation for winter response includes the following 510 beds, with additional beds and resources being added throughout the winter:

  • 175 additional beds between the three homeless resource centers.
  • 160 beds at the West Valley City overflow site operated by Switchpoint.
  • 65 beds at St. Vincent de Paul.
  • 50 beds at the Volunteers of America detoxification expansion.
  • 50 beds at the non-congregate temporary shelter project, a government-sanctioned homeless campground in Salt Lake City.

The recently approved transitional homeless housing facility for the medically vulnerable in Sandy is also anticipated to serve up to 165 people with 100 units. The operator of the facility, Shelter the Homeless, has expressed an ambitious opening date of Dec. 1 to help meet the need during the winter.

“Without coordination efforts … we would lack the beds needed to keep people experiencing homelessness safe and warm this winter,” stated the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness.

The West Valley overflow site is anticipated to open on Nov. 1, a deviation from the date of Oct. 16 listed in a letter by the Utah Office of Homeless Services. Additional beds identified in the winter response plan are anticipated to be available by the end of November, including the 50 non-congregate temporary shelter project beds that were identified outside the winter response plan, according to the state office.

State Homeless Coordinator Wayne Niederhauser applauded the Salt Lake County Council of Governments, city and county leaders, municipalities, and the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness for its efforts.

“Their unwavering commitment significantly contributes to safeguarding our most vulnerable community members during this winter season. These concerted efforts underscore their pivotal role in ensuring essential shelter and warmth for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Utah amidst this challenging season,” said Niederhauser.

Additional winter operations will include plans for a “code blue” protocol on some of the coldest nights. The “code blue” would work to prevent deaths on some of the coldest nights in the winter by requiring resource centers to expand capacity by 35% and allow other entities to open warming centers. The code would be declared by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services when temperatures reach 15 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The protocol was established in the 2023 legislative session with HB499 after at least eight unsheltered people died on Utah’s streets last winter.

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Winter overflow beds for homeless open up as temperatures cool