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The director of the nonprofit that now is driving the homeless-reform effort in Salt Lake County quietly announced Thursday that a shelter in South Salt Lake will host single men, while a planned shelter at 131 E. 700 South in Salt Lake City will be reserved for women.
The announcement, which surprised even one of the nonprofit's board members, ended months of guesswork about which city would land a homeless center for men as the state works with the county and Salt Lake City to close The Road Home and build three smaller, scattered-site shelters.
What remains a mystery is when the decision was made and who made it.
"Our organization didn't make that decision and therefore didn't vote on that," said Janell Fluckiger, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, the nonprofit that is now central to homeless reform. "The subpopulation was a decision that was made that we did not make."
So who made the decision?
"I honestly cannot point to a single person," she said.
For weeks, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said he didn't know which group of homeless residents would be housed at each of the three centers to be built in the next two years.
McAdams and his staff said the decision instead fell to Shelter the Homeless, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates The Road Home downtown and will own the new shelters, two in Salt Lake City and one in South Salt Lake.
"Who can be served at this facility and how can we serve them the best? That's to be determined," McAdams said during a Homeless Coordinating Committee meeting March 30.
McAdams didn't respond to a request for comment about the process of deciding where each population would be housed.
City, county and state leaders agreed in February to junk a city proposal to build four shelters throughout Salt Lake City. Instead, two shelters would be built in Salt Lake City.
The Legislature passed a bill that directed a third shelter be built and be located in Salt Lake County but outside Salt Lake City. McAdams identified three candidates: West Valley City, South Salt Lake and Draper.
Those residents feared if their town landed a shelter for single men, the area would become crime-ridden, similar to the Rio Grande neighborhood downtown.
While county officials dispute that homeless men are a higher risk than women, they repeatedly deflected questions about where men would go.
"The facilities we need are women, men and a mixed-gender facility of men and women. It could be any of the three," McAdams told the Homeless Coordinating Committee on March 30.
The following day, as he publicly unveiled his decision to put a site in South Salt Lake, McAdams said: "A decision hasn't been made on the population at the site."
That wasn't right, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Thursday during a meeting of the Shelter the Homeless board on which both mayors sit.
Officials from the city and county mayors' staff met in February with legislative leaders, where they agreed the shelter outside Salt Lake City would host men, according to Biskupski.
"A deal was brokered on populations," she said.
Biskupski apparently unveiled that deal at a Feb. 24 news conference while standing among legislators and McAdams.
"Salt Lake City is now committing to building two new resource centers, one serving single women and one serving single men and women as well," she said at the time.
McAdams denied Thursday there had been a secret deal.
"Me and my staff weren't in the meeting with [House Speaker Greg Hughes] when maybe some agreements were made [about] population," McAdams said.
On Friday, his staff declined to respond to questions about when the agreement was reached.
"The populations decision is based on the collective work and shared data analysis between the county's collective impact, the state, and the city," Michelle Schmitt, a McAdams spokeswoman, told The Salt Lake Tribune in an email.
Hughes, a Draper Republican, didn't respond to requests for comment about what agreements were made at the Legislature before McAdams embarked on a month-long public meeting tour as he weighed where he'd site the third and final shelter.
South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood, who fought the prospect of a shelter at 3380 S. 1000 West in her city, said she was under the impression after multiple conversations with McAdams that he was looking specifically for a site that would host single, working men.
"In every one he discussed the working men," said Wood, who added the way Fluckiger unveiled the decision Thursday was unexpected. "But I think I'd had enough conversations with McAdams that I don't know that I was totally surprised."