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Board to oversee new homeless shelters gearing up for new role, considering appointment of Josh Romney

FILE"” Josh Romney talks Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Salt Lake City about his political future.
FILE"” Josh Romney talks Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Salt Lake City about his political future.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The organization that's supposed to act as the oversight and "backbone" to the state's new homeless model took some of its first steps Tuesday toward owning and operating the three future homeless resource centers.

Board members of Shelter the Homeless Inc., a private nonprofit that currently owns the Road Home shelter, finalized their plan to request $16 million from the state next month so the board can purchase the three sites for the homeless resource centers and move forward with construction.

The board — which is led by Harris Simmons, chairman and CEO of Zions Bancorp., and includes Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski — is also in the process of adding new members to represent a more diverse set of interests to help oversee the state's new homeless system.

Of the new members being considered is Josh Romney — a Salt Lake-based real estate developer and son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"Josh Romney is one of the people that's interested and that the board is interested in as well," confirmed Janell Fluckiger, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, after Tuesday's board meeting.

Since Shelter the Homeless is aiming to have a more active role in managing the resource centers — rather than meeting only once or twice a year as it has done in the past for the Road Home — Fluckiger said the board hopes to have 15 members who represent different community interests that all have a stake in homeless issues, including health care, housing and development, and faith-based philanthropy.

While Romney's possible appointment is still being considered to represent housing and development interests, the board did decide on two new additions Tuesday: Mikelle Moore from Intermountain Healthcare and Jean Hill from Catholic Community Services, the group that manages the St. Vincent De Paul Dining Hall near the Road Home.

Moore and Hill join nine other members, representatives from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, LDS Church Humanitarian Services and the United Way of Salt Lake.

Four more positions on the board are expected to be filled, Fluckiger said. The board's intent is to appoint representatives from South Salt Lake and Midvale in order to represent all of the cities that will be housing the new shelters, as well as a representative for the developer community, the position that could potentially go to Romney.

Fluckiger noted the board is being mindful of potential conflicts of interests when making its new appointments. She said there is still a handful of applicants being reviewed.

"We are trying to do a system change here," Fluckiger said. "So we need people who aren't just focused on within homeless services, that understand the broader picture of what's going on in the community."

McAdams said up until now there's been "no formal mechanism" for coordination and collaboration between the city, state and county on homelessness issues — which is why the county's Collective Impact on Homelessness Committee has called for a "backbone" organization to coordinate services and hold service providers accountable to goals in the future.

"We want to make sure we have the ability to shape the services to our (goals) set by Collective Impact," McAdams said.

There are still many details that need to be ironed out before the new homeless resource centers open and The Road Home closes in June 2019, as required by the state law that provided $20 million in one-time funding to help build the resource centers.

Those details include what service providers will operate the new shelters, what role The Road Home will play in the future and which populations will be served where.

"That's part of the ongoing conversation," Fluckiger said.

It is expected, however, that the Shelter the Homeless board will be using about $16 million in state funds to acquire the sites after that funding is approved by the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee on May 10.

The board isn't requesting all $20 million from the state because $1 million is being set aside for the mobile health clinic to serve the three facilities, $2 million for overflow contingency planning and $1 million for a Murray detox facility, Fluckiger said.