SOUTH SALT LAKE, UTAH
Eighty-four formerly homeless individuals have a place of their own at the new Grace Mary Manor. Developed by the Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake, the $9 million project opened earlier this year to become just the second permanent supportive- housing development in the state. "We filled our facility as fast as we could do the paperwork," said Kerry Bate, executive director of the housing authority.
A homeless count found 3,316 homeless people in the state on Jan. 31. About 68 percent of them were in Salt Lake County, where the new development is located. Bate hopes that the opening of Grace Mary Manor will lead to a drop in next year's homeless count. "We think we will have a significant impact," he said.
The project is part of a recent push in the area toward the Housing First approach, which calls for providing homeless people with housing quickly and then offering services. The immediate focus is on providing stable, permanent housing.
Grace Mary Manor comes about a year after the opening of the state's first permanent supportive-housing development, Sunrise Metro, by the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City.
"The two projects are taking 184 individuals and giving them housing and getting them stabilized," said Lloyd Pendleton, director of the Utah Homeless Task Force.
These early developments serve as examples for other communities in Utah. "When you have models, it helps them catch the vision," said Pendleton, who has brought leaders from other cities for tours. More permanent supportive housing is planned in the Salt Lake City area. Palmer Court, which will provide about 200 units for the homeless, is under construction and will be operated by The Road Home, a local homelessness organization. In addition, Bate's agency wants to build a project for homeless seniors.
Many of the residents at Grace Mary Manor came from the shelters and the streets. Their cumulative stay in shelters was 99 years, according to Bate. The average shelter stay was about 550 days.
When housing authority leaders were planning the new development, they visited different communities and met with other developers. One of the lessons that Bate learned was the importance of including social space for residents.
Grace Mary Manor was designed with this in mind. All the mailboxes are located in the foyer, so people can mingle when picking up their mail. There is also a single laundry room to increase interaction. Although each unit comes with a television, there is also a community room with a TV. In addition, there are picnic tables and a basketball court.
"It's designed not to be just a place to sleep but a place for healthy social interaction," said Bate, who has been with the housing authority since 2003. Many of the residents are physically frail. Health-care providers visit the site weekly and see residents in the small onsite clinic or even in their apartments.
Grace Mary Manor targets residents earning no more than 35 percent of the area median income but is serving those making considerably less. The development is structured to have about 50 project- based Sec. 8 units and another 30 Shelter Plus Care units. The minimum monthly rent at the development is just $25.
The Utah Housing Corp. awarded low-income housing tax credits to the development. Wells Fargo purchased the credits to provide more than $5 million in equity.