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SLC Hotel To Serve As Temporary Winter Housing Site For Homeless

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A new temporary winter shelter for the homeless will be opening in a few weeks after members of the Salt Lake City Council held a special session to change zoning for the Airport Inn Hotel.

The change came after the Utah Department of Health and Salt Lake City police officers cleared out homeless camps in the Rio Grande area.

There’s not much left. But Darrell was still looking.

“This is ridiculous,” he said while looking through blankets and other items left outside on the cold grass. “It’s already hard enough.”

Darrell, who didn’t want to give his real name, is homeless. He had a tent on the west side of Rio Grande in Salt Lake City.

Friday, though, his tent and dozens of other tents, tarps and makeshift structures were removed by Salt Lake City police after health officials and city leaders determined living conditions there were unsafe.

“You’re taking that away from me. You’re taking that away from us,” said Darrell.

Many people who had tents came back to the area near 500 West and 400 South to see they were all gone.

“Where are they going to go? They constantly have to relocate,” said Victoria Crosby. “They’re just torturing these people. They want them out of the state.”

Crosby is part of a community group called Multicultural Teenagers Love For Unity.

The group tries to help the homeless by bringing them food and water. They’re also trying to find permanent housing for them.

Crosby said she knows homeless shelters are available, but she also said a lot of people don’t feel safe in them.

“There’s COVID going around. They’re going to shut it down instantly,” said Crosby. “This isn’t OK, and it isn’t right.”

Jean Hill, co-chair of the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, said the percentage of COVID-19 cases in shelters are less than the general population.

“Our providers have done a phenomenal job at keeping the numbers down,” said Hill. “There are some fears about going into the resource centers because of COVID, and I want to say to those who are on the street and really considering going into one, please do.”

Hill also announced the Airport Inn Hotel at 2333 West North Temple in Salt Lake City will become temporary emergency housing for the homeless.

Members of the Salt Lake City Council held a special session Friday afternoon to change zoning to allow the homeless to stay there.

The owner said he had to close since there was less tourism in the area because of COVID-19 and had plans to renovate the hotel.

Since no guests are currently staying there, Hill said it makes a perfect place for overflow emergency winter housing for the homeless.

Hill hopes it can be open by Jan.1 — if not sooner.

“This is huge. This is the final piece for our winter plans for shelter and meeting the needs for people who are experiencing homeless right now,” said Hill.

She also acknowledged it was another homeless shelter being located on the west side of Salt Lake City.

“Salt Lake’s westside communities have taken on a very large share of the services for people in need,” said Hill. “We are very committed during this time of overflow to be a good partner with them as well as meeting their needs related to this facility.”

Hill said she hopes more communities in Salt Lake County could assist with housing for the homeless in the future.

“We are working toward long-term solutions for other communities to help,” said Hill.

The Airport Inn hotel is a place Darrell may consider when it opens.

He has to go somewhere since he can’t stay where he’s been staying anymore.

“They’re there taking our house,” he said. “They’re taking nothing from nothing.”

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