SALT LAKE CITY — Not too long ago, Salt Lake's "solution" to homelessness was busing hundreds of men each night to an overflow shelter in a suburban industrial park.
That "fix" didn't work for anyone, long term. Nor did it make sense for government, nonprofit, faith-based organizations and the private sector to each work on the problem on their own.
So the parties started putting their heads together. They settled on a "housing first" strategy, in which homeless individuals and families are settled into housing and surrounded with services they need to address the issues that contribute to their homelessness.
The Road Home has taken the lead in establishing new housing options, most notably Palmer Court, which was converted from a hotel to 201 units of permanent housing. The facility provides housing and on-site intensive case management for individuals and families who have been in long-term states of homelessness.
This winter, for the first time in 12 years, not a single man was housed at The Road Home's overflow shelter in Midvale — an indication that the community's "housing first" initiative is working.
Now that innovation has garnered national attention. Next week, The Road Home and Matt Minkevitch, the nonprofit agency's executive director, will receive The National Alliance to End Homelessness' Nonprofit Achievement Award during the organization's national conference in Washington, D.C.
"We're deeply honored and humbled to have an opportunity to represent our community in this very significant way. We know this is not just our agency. We only exist in the context of a broader community fabric. We are ecstatic, frankly," Minkevitch said.
The award is one of three to be presented during an awards ceremony Thursday, July 14.
Other honorees include U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Judy Biggert, R-Ill., co-chairwomen of the House Caucus on Homelessness, who will receive the Public Sector Achievement Award; and the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness, a joint initiative of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which will be honored with the Nonprofit Achievement Award.
Nan Roman, president of the alliance, said annual awards acknowledge the work of leaders attempting to end homelessness.
This year, we have the opportunity to honor people persevering through the hardest challenges to achieve our shared goal," said Roman. "We take a moment to honor their achievement and acknowledge that together — with commitment, cooperation and leadership — we can end homelessness in the United States."
The Road Home, according the alliance, "has been a leader in the effort to re-house homeless people in Salt Lake County. The organization has eagerly adopted some of the practices and policies proven to prevent and end homelessness and seen results, even in this tumultuous economic climate."
Minkevitch said the award is especially meaningful because The Road Home did not compete with other like agencies about its strategies and programs. The community's collaborative approach to homelessness has spread word of mouth.
"As we've met with and compared notes with other agencies and communities, the one thing that stands out is that they deeply appreciate the degree to which we collaborate," Minkevitch said.
Palmer Court, for instance, works cooperatively with Valley Mental Health and Volunteers of America, as well as government agencies that oversee employment, food stamp eligibility and health care coverage. The facility also houses Head Start programs, which also include infant and toddler child care.
It is but one example of community partners joining forces to address a community issue, he said.
"It's a more highly evolved way of interacting. It's far more effective. It has more vision and foresight than letting ego cloud one's perspective," Minkevitch said.