Demolition Of Downtown Shelter Underway Amid Mixed Reactions From Workers, Homeless

Jan 28, 2020, 5:37 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah —Demolition of The Road Home’s downtown shelter began Monday amid mixed reactions from local workers and the area’s homeless.

“I said, ‘What?’ and I looked around the corner and sure enough!” said Randy Barnard. “It hit me.”

Barnard, who had spent time at the shelter on and off over the past 10 years, found himself taking pictures and videos of the dismantling of the decades-old building.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Doug Bennett, another homeless man. “It’s crazy!”

For others, however, the demolition of the building at 210 S. Rio Grande represented another notable turning point.

With the success  Operation Rio Grande has already seen in targeting and reducing crime, Rio Grande Café general manager Max Bell said change to the area has been significant.

He was bullish about the potential for economic growth in the years to come.

“It’s just completely different now,” Bell said. “I’m unbelievably optimistic.”

That sentiment was also echoed by Josh Loftin, who works at the Rio Grande Depot as the communications director for the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.

Crews begin the demolition of The Road Home shelter in downtown Salt Lake City on Jan. 27, 2020. (Photo: Andrew Adams)

Crews begin the demolition of The Road Home shelter in downtown Salt Lake City on Jan. 27, 2020. (Photo: Andrew Adams)

“It would surprise me if you didn’t see some pretty good investment down here in the next few years,” Loftin said. “To have it as a place that maybe (people) would want to stop or not walk all the way through — it’d be nice.”

Construction crews said the building was expected to be torn down in about two weeks’ time, with project completion expected sometime in March.

State officials told the Deseret News Monday the property was expected to be sold with a listing price of $4.4 million.

Barnard said he has found the new homeless resource centers located elsewhere to be less-than-ideal, and he was admittedly bitter as a result.

“As far as the homeless this winter, there are a lot of people suffering,” Barnard said. “I’ve actually tried to get into the shelter four different times – the new resource centers is what they call them — and have not been able to get in and have had to sleep outside. I don’t know what they were thinking.”

Still, he waxed sentimental about the old shelter being torn down.

“Yeah, there have been some times here,” Barnard smiled. “It’s emotional — definitely emotional.”

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Demolition Of Downtown Shelter Underway Amid Mixed Reactions From Workers, Homeless