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Understanding the impact of decentralizing homeless services on transportation and mobility in Salt Lake County
Principle Investigator: Sarah Canham, University of Utah
Co-Investigators: Ivis Garcia, University of Utah; Jeff Rose, University of Utah; Shannon Jones, University of Utah
In 2019, the delivery of homeless sheltering services in Salt Lake County transitioned from a centralized emergency shelter—The Road Home Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center (TRHSLC)—operated by The Road Home to a decentralized, scattered site model with multiple “Homeless Resource Center” (HRC) locations operated by multiple service providers. To understand to what degree and to which “proximity” to public transportation and other needed services was achieved, this study examined: 1) how the decentralization of homeless services influenced transportation demand and mobility patterns for persons experiencing homelessness (PEH); and 2) how transportation and mobility changes affected access to services for PEH. Using a mixed methods research design, this interdisciplinary study conducted historical public document analysis, GIS spatial analyses, client (PEH) surveys, and interviews with clients (PEH) and professional service providers. Findings reveal that while the region’s homelessness services system changed, the transportation network went unchanged, challenging the use of transportation, PEH mobility, and access to services. Recommendations to mitigate transportation issues when homeless services are decentralized include significant consideration of how the transportation network system will evolve alongside the restructured service system. This could include development of no- or low-cost transportation on demand options, expanding bus routes, state-level funding for a shuttle system, and education to PEH on how to use public transit.
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