SOUTH SALT LAKE — About 10 months ago, Joyce Hewitt learned that a 300-bed homeless resource center would be built on her South Salt Lake street — news she said left her "devastated" and suddenly uncertain about the future of the place she has called home for the past 54 years.
When Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams selected the South Salt Lake site at 3380 S. 1000 West, he recommended that center's owner, Shelter the Homeless, also consider buying out the six single-family properties surrounding the site to help mitigate impact.
Yet since then, Hewitt and her neighbors say they haven't yet heard any details of how much they'll be offered.
"It's nerve-wracking," Hewitt said, adding that she believes she and her husband, James, will have "no choice" but to move before the shelter opens, and yet they have no idea what their budget will be.
Down the street from Hewitt, Elaine Jones says she, too, has been waiting for months for an offer on her property.
"We're kind of in limbo," Jones said. "We have no idea what we're going to do, how much we're going to get, where we're going to relocate or when we're going to relocate. … They said they would help us, and we have not heard one word."
But one thing's for sure, Jones said, and that is she won't be staying.
"I'm 82," she said. "It's not going to be safe for me to live across the street from 300 men."
McAdams chose the South Salt Lake site for a third homeless resource center after plans to build four 150-bed homeless centers in Salt Lake City to break up populations currently staying at the Road Home's troubled downtown shelter changed to a new plan to build 200-bed centers in Salt Lake City and one other site in Salt Lake County.
South Salt Lake leaders bitterly fought against the facility — and were frustrated even more to find out the shelter would not necessarily house working men like McAdams had previously suggested — but had no power to block it.
Along the way, county leaders have tried to convince concerned residents that the new homeless centers won't be anything like the current downtown shelter — that they won't bring with them chaos, drugs and crime because they'll be designed to provide on-site resources and will be more manageable with smaller populations.
But Hewitt and Jones aren't convinced, and they fear their neighborhood will no longer be safe once the 300-bed men's center opens.
"They're jeopardizing our lives and everything we built here," Hewitt said. "They're taking it away from us."
The two women said they're even more frustrated by not knowing what their options will be or even when they should start hunting for houses. Last they heard, the site was supposed to begin construction this spring.
Living directly north of the site, Ryann Ringel said she hasn't heard any specifics either — but she's trying to be "patient" and hopes that McAdams and Shelter the Homeless will follow through with their commitments.
"We're just trusting they're going to give us the best offer they possibly can," Ringel said.
In a strange stroke of bad luck, Ringel and her husband, Chris, had moved to their South Salt Lake home right next to the site just seven months prior to its selection, moving from the Sugar House neighborhood near the site of the previously proposed and highly controversial homeless facility on Simpson Avenue.
Preston Cochrane, the newly hired executive director of Shelter the Homeless, said no offers on properties surrounding the sites have yet been ironed out. But he added, "We're getting close."
At the request of Cindy Jones — Elaine Jones' daughter-in-law who also lives near the site — Cochrane said he hopes a meeting will be scheduled sometime next week to bring more clarity to neighbors.
"We want to make sure everyone's concerns and uncertainties are addressed," he said.
Regarding the delay, Cochrane said over the past several months Shelter the Homeless has undergone a "transition period," with its former director, Janell Fluckiger, transitioning back into her job for Salt Lake County while Cochrane was being hired as the permanent director.
Now, Cochrane said Shelter the Homeless is waiting for its conditional use application to be approved and appraisals still need to be done on surrounding properties.
Cochrane expects the conditional use permit application to be approved by March 1, and groundbreaking is expected no later than June 1.
It's too soon to say what kind of offers will be given to the six residents on the street, Cochrane said. He did say, however, that Shelter the Homeless has about $2.4 million left in its budget since the South Salt Lake site only cost about $570,000 out of an up to $3 million budget for site acquisition.
Elaine Jones, however, was unconvinced that $2.4 million would be enough to properly buy out and maybe compensate residents for "uprooting" their lives.
"That's not going to cut it," she said, noting that several years ago a real estate company offered her $1 million for her 2 acres — an offer she now regrets not taking, though at the time she was skeptical of the offer.17 comments on this story
South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood, who also sits on the Shelter the Homeless board, said she shares the frustration of neighbors on the street.
"I sympathize with my residents in the lack of clear process in this regard, and I understand it's very frustrating," she said, noting that the buyouts have not yet come up on any Shelter the Homeless board meetings.
The site of the homeless resource center is an "issue that I deal with almost daily,' Wood said, adding that she and other city leaders are working to implement strategies to mitigate its impact.