Salt Lake City Council has approved a village for the chronically homeless : NPR

A rendering of The Other Side Village, which will initially have 60 cottage-style homes, but the team behind the project hopes to eventually expand to 430 homes.

The village on the other side


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The village on the other side


A rendering of The Other Side Village, which will initially have 60 cottage-style homes, but the team behind the project hopes to eventually expand to 430 homes.

The village on the other side

The Salt Lake City Council has voted in favor of a project to build a small community of mini-houses for people experiencing chronic homelessness, in a project that organizers hope could be a model for other cities.

The organization behind this effort is The Other Side Village, which is currently in the process of submitting building permits to begin development. He hopes to start housing people in the summer of 2023.

Samuel Grenny, village communications director, joined the project shortly after it started a year and a half ago.

“It’s very overwhelming. We’ve put in a lot of work to make it happen,” Grenny told NPR by phone. “It’s just really, really rewarding.”

The village will provide permanent housing for people who are chronically homeless, meaning they have spent a cumulative year or more on the streets in the last three years. The Other Side Village specifically targets those struggling with mental illness or addiction, as they have the most difficulty finding and maintaining housing.

The schematic master plan of what the village could become.

The village on the other side


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The village on the other side


The schematic master plan of what the village could become.

The village on the other side

The community will initially consist of 60 fully-equipped cottage-style homes, divided into small neighborhoods of 30 homes. He will have a bodega and plans to start a donut shop and a succulent plant arrangement business. These stores will provide employment opportunities for villagers, so they can become financially self-sufficient while connecting with the surrounding area. community.

Planners eventually hope to build an outdoor events center and auditorium for world-class musical talent.

“The village will live or die depending on whether it’s a place where people are excited and eager to come,” Grenny said.

Work with neighbors to ease concerns

Initially, the village faced significant opposition. The space allocated for the homes is in District Two, on the west side of Salt Lake City. In a phone call with NPR, City Council member Alejandro Puy, who represents the district, says it’s one of the few in Utah with a minority majority. And he’s used to feeling ignored.

“In my district alone, there are several public institutions for those who are in prison or detention, several halfway houses, addiction treatment centers, shelters for the elderly,” Puy said, adding that people are frustrated with the lack of economic investment in the neighborhood.

Representation of part of the village. Thirty houses will make up individual neighborhoods, said Samuel Grenny.

The village on the other side


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The village on the other side


Representation of part of the village. Thirty houses will make up individual neighborhoods, said Samuel Grenny.

The village on the other side

Puy said his constituents liked the village concept and agreed the city needed to do something about homelessness, but feared it would be another burden on the West Side. Puy described a community rich in culture and diversity that just needs financial support to emerge.

“I don’t think it will be a success if there is no connection with the community,” Puy said. So the District and The Other Side Village worked to address each other’s concerns.

Grenny said he made dozens of adjustments to the aesthetic, curriculum, and his amenities based on those conversations.

For example, measuring crime in the surrounding community will allow the other side to ensure that the village is not making the area more dangerous. Puy knows the other side is running a tight ship, he said, but neighbors feel safer now that the village has agreed to have 24-hour security. It also starts with just 60 houses , with the plan to expand to the originally proposed 430 homes.

The Other Side Village diligently logs data to track its successes and failures, with the goal of being replicable nationwide. Grenny said his team will make plans to transfer them to other cities and provide training — and, in turn, hopes to learn from those cities’ innovations.

Broader solutions for homelessness are needed

The real fight against homelessness really comes down to housing prices, Grenny said. The median rental price in Salt Lake City is $1,800, up $205 from last November, according to Zillow.

“We never tried to say we could be a long-term solution to the causal factors,” Grenny said. “What we can do is demonstrate for this specific population of people, […] we have a model that can really help them find sustainable housing and become part of the community, rather than being isolated. »

A rendering of a triplex in the village. The site of the planned community was once a landfill, said city council member Alejandro Puy.

The village on the other side


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The village on the other side


A rendering of a triplex in the village. The site of the planned community was once a landfill, said city council member Alejandro Puy.

The village on the other side

But it can also have a systemic impact. Organizers hope that many villagers can have a stronger political voice by securing the resources to vote, participate in activism and even run for office. Grenny thinks that may lead to other solutions.

The Other Side recruited homeless people, for whom it then helped find transitional accommodation, to help develop the village — because they know best what homeless people need.

“If you don’t include them in the process, you’re not going to create a real solution,” he said. “The Other Side Village’s dream is to empower people to create and maintain their own standards.”

The organization also hired a third-party company to do door-to-door in the neighborhood and poll people, revealing that about 60% of community members were in favor of the project, according to Grenny.

At city council meetings, he said some westerners said they thought the village could be an economic benefit to their district. This made his previously homeless team members emotional.

“They got pretty overwhelming support, and they left city council meetings on the verge of tears because of the number of people who fought for homeless people,” Grenny said. “I think it was quite a unique experience for them.”

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