Webinar: The Impact of Decentralizing Homeless Services on Transportation and Mobility

Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 12:00pm to 1:00pm PDT
Sarah Canham, Ivis Garcia, Shannon Jones, and Jeff Rose; UU
PDH: 1 | AICP: 1



With findings from a mixed methods research study, this interdisciplinary webinar will present results from a historical public document analysis, a GIS spatial analyses, client surveys and interviews, and interviews with professionals and service providers. In 2019, the delivery of homeless sheltering services in Salt Lake County transitioned from a centralized emergency shelter to a scattered site model with multiple resource center locations, operated by multiple service providers. To understand the degree 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; and
  2. how transportation and mobility changes affected access to services.

Findings reveal that while the region’s homelessness services system changed, the transportation network went unchanged, challenging the use of transportation, 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 for people experiencing homelessness on how to use public transit.


  • The audience will learn about a case study of a homeless shelter that was replaced by multiple shelters and how this change affected the mobility of those receiving services.
  • The audience will learn about how public transportation networks need to be in dynamic cooperation with other municipal and social services, with particular attention toward how those experiencing homelessness require access to public transportation services.
  • The audience will learn about the need to offer transportation on demand to persons experiencing homelessness, provide education on transportation and system navigation, and increase transportation-related funding to ensure transportation costs are not a barrier to healthcare and social services.


This webinar is based on a study funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) and conducted at the University of Utah. Read more about the project: Understanding the Mobility Impacts of Decentralizing Homeless Services in Salt Lake County, Utah.


Sarah Canham, University of Utah

Sarah Canham, Ph.D., FGSA is an Associate Professor at the University of Utah with a joint appointment in the College of Social Work and the College of Architecture and Planning in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning; she is also the Associate Director of the University’s Health Interprofessional Education program. Dr. Canham’s research is grounded in a community-engaged research modality, meaning she works with the community to identify research needs and questions. She is engaged in examining homelessness, housing security, health and social service delivery, and aging. Using a social justice lens, her interdisciplinary research seeks solutions to systemic barriers to aging well in various environments.

Ivis Garcia, University of Utah

Ivis Garcia, Ph.D., AICP, is an Assistant Professor in City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. Ivis has worked in several NITC projects that are interested in access to transportation for older adults, low-income individuals, and people of color. Dr. Garcia has worked in multiple projects related to providing services to those experiencing homelessness including a Homeless Plan for the Concord Naval Weapons Station, an evaluation of the Chicago Housing Trust Fund, and a study on the Rapid Rehousing Program with the Road Home in Salt Lake City. 

Shannon Jones, University of Utah

Shannon Jones, M.S., is an Assistant Professor (Clinical), in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, as well as the Project Lead for diabetes prevention amongst people experiencing homelessness as part of Health Sciences’ Driving Out Diabetes Initiative at the University of Utah. Her applied interventions utilize critical systems theories and critical cultural studies perspectives to collaborate with communities experiencing homelessness, service agencies, and nonprofits to work towards more equitable health and food systems within local homeless services, with particular foci on food access, food security, and nutritional justice.

Jeff Rose, University of Utah

Jeff Rose, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah. His research leverages interdisciplinary political ecology to take a social and environmental justice approach to nature-society relations. His past and current research critically interrogates issues of public space, productions of nature, connection to place, and various non-normative behaviors, with a particular focus on experiences of unsheltered homelessness across the urban-wildland interface.



This 60-minute webinar is eligible for 1 hour of professional development credit for AICP (see our provider summary). We provide an electronic attendance certificate for other types of certification maintenance.


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Photo by aoldman/iStock

This webinar is hosted by the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University. The research was funded by the Summit Foundation and the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), a program of TREC and one of five U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers. The NITC program is a Portland State-led partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah and new partners University of Arizona and University of Texas at Arlington. We pursue our theme — improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities — through research, education and technology transfer.