SALT LAKE CITY — It went down to the wire, but the Salt Lake City Council has budgeted up to $280,000 to operate an overflow shelter downtown for people experiencing homelessness.
The shelter, to be set up nightly in Catholic Community Services of Utah's St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall, opened at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A strong winter storm was expected late Wednesday into Thursday morning. The overflow shelter, 235 S. Rio Grande St., can serve up to 80 people per night.
The overflow shelter will be run by The Road Home, which operates the main downtown shelter across the street.
"We are profoundly grateful to our partners at Salt Lake City that have supported us in this effort. We appreciate Catholic Community Services for the partnership we have with them," said Matthew Minkevitch, executive director for The Road Home.
"That we're able to do this right now is particularly important. We're prepared in time for the storm."
The money will not be allocated all at once, but Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold said he wanted to relieve The Road Home of concerns of coming up with matching funds to establish and staff an overflow shelter.
“We need the shelter this week. The weather is going to change pretty dramatically this week,” Penfold said during the council's Tuesday night work session.
David Litvak, deputy chief of staff to Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, said conversations are underway with Salt Lake County and the state to help fund the overflow shelter.
“It is important for the public and all of us to understand the gap that was created at St. Vincent’s, according to The Road Home, was because as Midvale (family shelter, which was formerly seasonal) came on year-round. Part of the funding allocated from the state for Midvale is (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) so it took a little while to work out the mechanism and reimbursement,” Litvak said.
In the meantime, The Road Home had to dip into reserves to pay operating costs of the Midvale Center, which opened nearly a year ago and can serve up to 300 people in families.
The Road Home’s “bare bones request" to the city for the overflow shelter was about $182,000, Litvak said.
Penfold said he was uncomfortable with the notion of a bare bones request, recommending a higher level of funding.
Minkevitch said The Road Home's preliminary plan is to operate the overflow shelter through winter into the spring.
"That we're in place in time is particularly meaningful. We're still working through this. We're hiring. We're not staffed up yet. We're counting on some very special volunteers who have stepped up to join us in this effort. There's definitely some rough edges on this, but nothing we can't handle," he said.
"We will have enough people in place to provide these critical services. It starts tonight, and we expect to run right though the winter into April. There's too many people in need for us not to do this."