Road Home Shows Way for New CentersSep 29, 2016 04:24PM ● By Travis Barton
The Road Home Family Shelter in Midvale originally started as a location only open during the winter months. It’s now open year-round with new playground equipment planned for installation. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
ince November 2015, The Road Home family center in Midvale has served as a beacon for homeless families. Now it’s serving as an example for future homeless shelters.
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
During September, Salt Lake City and the Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission hosted a series of guided tours of homeless resource centers across the Wasatch Front.
Tours took place at the Lantern House in Ogden, YWCA in Salt Lake City, Volunteers of America Youth Homeless Resource Center in Salt Lake City and the Midvale Family Shelter. The tours highlighted the design, operation and services that could be used for new centers in Salt Lake City.
“These are very good examples of where you can get 300 people in a unit without having a negative impact on the surrounding area,” Dillon Hase, homeless services technician, said.
The commission was revived in the spring to find two homeless shelter sites, one for 250 men and the other for 250 women. After these tours, the commission will incorporate what they learned into a proposal to be presented to the public in October.
The Midvale Family Center is exclusively for families and can house 300 occupants at a time with about 72 families. Michelle Flynn, associate executive director of programs for The Road Home, said it’s a good number.
“You can serve more families but you would definitely need more space. For example, the kitchen area, to have a lot of families share the kitchen is kind of a tricky thing,” Flynn said. The Road Home was built with a conditional use permit, which meant they had to follow certain restrictions in size.
Designing The Road Home meant creating a very welcome atmosphere, not just from the staff but in the architecture and aesthetic.
“We made a real effort to have the building be open, lots of light, big windows, very welcoming and friendly with warm colors,” Flynn said.
The center aims to provide the necessary services for families with case managers, counseling assistances and transportation. Community partnerships are utilized to supply some of those services like helping families obtain Medicaid and most importantly, finding housing options. A lot of those partnerships are located at the Midvale Center.
These partnerships are especially useful for the kids. For the first time this summer, the center worked with The Boys and Girls Club. The aim was to create recreational opportunities for kids staying at the shelter, helping them maintain a normal routine during a traumatic period in their lives.
“Living in a homeless shelter is not anybody’s cup of tea so (we take) any chance we can give to ground them and give them a sense of belonging to something,” Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini said in July.
With the beginning of school, the center has partnered with Canyon School District to hold after-school programs at the shelter.
All of this is done to ensure the families’ needs are met.
Since 2009 the housing team, as part of the rapid rehousing program, has helped about 2,000 families move out with a success rate of about 86 percent of families who stay housed and don’t come back.
“What we’re trying to do here is get families out of shelters as quickly as possible and rebuild that support network so they can address anything they need to address to remain stable in their own home,” Flynn said. The average length of stay for a family is about 53 days.
Flynn credited the rapid rehousing program, which sees workers immediately begin working with families to identify relocation options, with keeping that number down. Before the program, Flynn said families were typically staying well over a year.
About 66 percent of the shelter’s occupants are kids and Matt Minkevitch, The Road Home executive director, said they have four times the kids they have in housing through their programs.
Minkevitch said things will improve even more when units more suited to this demographic are built creating more vacancies.
“When we do that, we’re going to improve the situation for both families and individuals markedly,” Minkevitch said. “And until we do that, cities around the United States are going to be vexed with this problem.”
Modeling the successes of the Midvale Family Shelter demonstrates what these shelters can provide for those in need.
“Shelters are so incredibly important when people are coming in in that desperate situation when it’s cold out, it’s wet and rainy, it’s like thank god we have shelters in our community,” Minkevitch said.