Understanding the Mobility Impacts of Decentralizing Homeless Services in Salt Lake County, Utah

Sarah Canham, University of Utah



In 2016, Salt Lake County, Utah initiated the transition of the delivery of homelessness services from a centralized homeless shelter and provider (The Road Home) to a decentralized model of shelter provision and service delivery through four Homeless Resource Centers (HRCs) that are operated by different providers (The Road Home and Volunteers of America, Utah). The HRCs were designed and built outside of the downtown core to shelter 1,000 individuals facing homelessness. The HRCs provide a range of services, some of which were entirely new within the homeless services system, including in-shelter foodservice, medical care, employment assistance, and case management. The transition to a decentralized model required careful consideration of where to locate these new HRCs—one key issue for consideration in the Salt Lake City Planning Commission's (2017) HRC Zoning Amendment was “proximity” which considered how accessible the new locations were to public transportation and other needed services. Aligned with the NITC theme of increased access to opportunities, the following aims are proposed: 1) To understand how the decentralization of homeless services has influenced transportation demand and mobility patterns for persons experiencing homelessness; and 2) To understand how transportation and mobility changes affect access to services and supports. Using a mixed methods research design, this interdisciplinary study proposes conducting 1) a content analysis of publicly available planning staff reports; 2) a GIS spatial and statistical analysis of proximity to opportunity and basic services for users of the four new HRCs compared to the former Road Home shelter; 3) up to 20 interviews with providers and decision makers; 4) survey of 100 clients’ travel behaviors, mobility patterns, and access to necessary services; and 5) up to 20 interviews/focus groups with individuals who stay in one of the four new HRCs. This research will provide recommendations to transportation agency staff and others about policy initiatives to effectively and equitably mitigate transportation issues when homeless services are restructured and/or decentralized.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
February 15,2022
UTC Grant Cycle:
NITC 16 Round 4
UTC Funding: