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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Shawn McMillen, executive director of First Step House, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Grant Whitaker, president and CEO of the Utah Housing Corporation, participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the latest phase of the First Step House Recovery Campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake officials and homeless advocates broke ground Friday on the city's first new permanent supportive housing project in 10 years.

The new phase of First Step House Recovery Campus, called 5th East Apartments, will be located at 440 S. 500 East, officials said. The building will provide 75 beds and support for those who are leaving homelessness.

"The thing that some of you may not know about this project is that the people that we will be serving in the 5th East Apartments are individuals who struggle with serious and persistent mental illness," said Shawn McMillen, executive director of First Step House, during a groundbreaking for the new building.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Laura Smith looks at a rendering of the latest phase of the First Step House Recovery Campus during a groundbreaking ceremony in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2019.

"They are folks who often slip through the cracks, and because of this, we're going to be able to provide a warm, safe place for those folks to live that will match the level of services to the level of need," McMillen explained.

The First Step House Recovery Campus offers substance use disorder treatment, medical care, job training and housing, officials said. The first phase opened in 2016 and also serves veterans.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said, "I come from a family that has mental illness in it and I see what happens, so I personally am grateful to everyone who has stepped up to make this a reality."

"It is also part of our process in shifting away from the shelter model of service to the homeless resource centers and having that next step, which is a permanent supportive housing unit," she said.

The building will be the first "significant development of permanent supportive housing" in the city since Palmer Court was built about 10 years ago. The city invested $1 million in the First Step House expansion, Biskupski said.

Tim Whalen, director of Salt Lake County Behavioral Health Services, said the biggest barrier for getting people out of psychiatric hospitals and into the community is the lack of "safe, affordable housing."

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Shawn McMillen, First Step House executive director, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the latest phase of the First Step House Recovery Campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2019.

"It offers us the ability to place 75 of our most vulnerable citizens in safe, affordable housing with access to treatment, to have dignity in their lives, and to be safe," Whalen said.

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The Utah Housing Corporation started formulating the idea two years ago as Pioneer Park, a downtown hot spot for people experiencing homelessness, began "spiraling out of control," said Grant S. Whitaker, president and CEO of Utah Housing Corporation.

The project will cost about $20 million, he said, some of which will be funded by allocated tax credits.

The project is being financed by Salt Lake City’s Housing Trust Fund, Zions Bank, National Equity Fund, Morgan Stanley, Rocky Mountain Community Reinvestment Corporation and the Olene Walker Home Loan Fund, officials said.

Biskupski said the project is expected to be completed around next spring.