SALT LAKE CITY — State, county and city leaders took the next steps Wednesday toward breaking ground on the three new homeless resource centers meant to dramatically change Salt Lake County's homeless services system.
That included officially securing $16 million in state funds to buy the land and begin design and construction for the centers — two in Salt Lake City, one in South Salt Lake.
But in addition to approving those allocations, the state Homeless Coordinating Committee also voted to use any extra funds, beginning with at least $750,000 this year, to begin moving people out of the overcrowded, 1,100-bed Road Home shelter in downtown Salt Lake City — for good.
The goal: To have all families out of the Rio Grande shelter by July 15 by steering them into rapid rehousing or other homelessness prevention programs.
The committee voted to condition all financial awards to The Road Home on transitioning families out of the shelter by the July deadline, while also requiring that the family wing not be "backfilled" with other clients, according to the committee's 2018 allocation plan.
An estimated 30 families reside in The Road Home, said Jonathan Hardy, committee member and Department of Workforce Services division director of Housing and Community Development.
"We're making a commitment today, starting with this first round of funding, to reduce family homelessness from the Rio Grande shelter and have all families out of the Rio Grande," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a member of the state committee.
McAdams said the "family downtown relocation plan" — along with the secured funding to begin construction on the three homeless centers — is the "first step" toward actually moving people out of the trouble Road Home.
"We're not going to wait until June of 2019 to start that transition," McAdams said. "We're starting with the first step today."
Homeless Center Timeline | Heather Tuttle
Once families are out of The Road Home, McAdams said the 300-bed Midvale family shelter will be the only facility providing emergency shelter for families.
It's not yet clear which programs the families will be diverted to, Hardy said, but they will likely include rapid rehousing, short-term rental assistance and housing vouchers.
"We'll work with stakeholders to decide what the best strategy is," Hardy said.
In addition to launching the family relocation plan, the state committee also reviewed the budget projections and the anticipated timeline for shelter construction from Shelter the Homeless, the board that will own and operate the facilities.
Among those projections — an anticipated groundbreaking for the shelters next April.
Janell Fluckiger, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, presented the plans to the state committee Wednesday — the first time a detailed timeline has been made public.
According to the timeline, the site purchases will be finalized in July, the design will be finalized in January 2018, permitting will wrap up in March 2018, and construction will begin in April 2018. That leaves one year for construction, with inspections to take place in May 2019 so the facilities can become operational by the June 2019 deadline set to close The Road Home.
While it'll be a busy two years, McAdams said he's confident there's enough time to get the new centers up and running by deadline.
But there are still several details that still need to be ironed out — including a vast private funding gap and which facilities will house what populations, expected to be one for single men, one for women, and a segregated facility for both women and men (though based on population counts, it will mostly house men), McAdams said.
That choice will have to be made before design phase can begin in the next few months, the mayor said, but city and county officials and Shelter the Homeless board members are working on the issue.
Another detail that still hasn't been sorted? The cost of one of the sites in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said the city is still in conversations with the LDS Church to figure out the purchase price of the site at 131 East 700 South, where a Deseret Industries is located.
While $3 million is budgeted for purchasing of each site, the church-owned property has been appraised at $4.6 million, said Biskupski's spokesman, Matthew Rojas.
However, Biskupski said it's expected that Salt Lake City "won't end up paying out of pocket" for the site because church officials are working on ways to "give back" so the site purchase will align with the state's budget.
"It will all work out," she said, noting that church officials "know our deadlines."