The Magnolia Apartments will help “influence the homeless system,” says The Road Home’s executive director, by “attracting people who are really struggling to get into an apartment.”
A new permanent housing development in downtown Salt Lake City will bring at least 65 homeless people off the streets or shelters over the next month.
Units come online as the city grapples with what appears to be a growing population with no shelter and a shortage of housing, making it difficult to get people through the shelter system.
“We’re going to see an impact on the homeless system with these 65 units,” said Michelle Flynn, executive director of The Road Home nonprofit, which will operate the complex, during a media tour of the building Thursday. “We attract people who are really struggling to get into an apartment.”
The studio apartments in the Magnolia complex at 165 S. 300 East will make all the difference to the chronically homeless they will soon call home, a group of people Flynn describes as “most at risk”.
However, Flynn realized that the units represented a small dent in the huge demand for housing in the Salt Lake Valley, both for people affected by homelessness and for the population at large.
To meet the needs of people who are not protected, the county needs even more permanent supportive housing that gives residents access to case workers and other services, Flynn said. However, she said many other types of housing solutions are also needed to cater to people’s diverse circumstances.
“We’re looking for other types of single units, single-room units that might provide a lighter version of support services for individuals … men or women who work, just don’t make enough money, don’t really need support services,” she said. “We also need some of it.”
Among the housing solutions the city is exploring is a small home that village leaders see as an option to help people overcome homelessness and build communities.
The Magnolia joins several existing permanent housing complexes in the Salt Lake County area that are also geared towards a “live first” model, the primary aim of which is to get people into stable living conditions so that they can meet other needs can fulfill their lives.
These long-term homes, which offer heavily subsidized or free rents, have proven extremely successful in Salt Lake County communities with retention rates of around 95%. In Utah County, such efforts have resulted in a 50% decrease in the homeless population over the past three years.
Unlike many permanent supportive housing projects in the Salt Lake Valley – like The Road Home’s Palmer Court, a 201-person community that was retrofitted from a former Holiday Inn – the Magnolia was built with people homeless in mind, noted Flynn.
The $ 17 million facility has large, open windows, and rooms are furnished with kitchen appliances and bedding purchased by volunteers, including from a new volunteer program in Salt Lake City, as well as two weeks of food to get you started. Residents also have access to case management and other on-site programs.
The building “burned support into the bones,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall at a ribbon-cutting event for the facility on Thursday.
“It’s big and beautiful, and it’s a place for these Salt Lakers to establish their next stages in life and build a community because homelessness is largely the result of catastrophic loss of family and community,” she said. “So it’s vitally important for us to re-establish connections and nurture new ones, and that’s part of what this building designed and ultimately built – not just living space, but community building and relationships.”
The Salt Lake Tribune will update this report