The problem of homelessness in Utah

The mid 1980s brought an economic revitalization to Salt Lake City’s downtown that included the demolition and redevelopment of many substandard housing units otherwise known as Single-Room Occupancy Hotels (SROs). The SROs were homes to Salt Lake’s lowest-income residents who often worked odd jobs within walking distance as janitors or watchmen. When the roughly 800 housing units were torn down, 1,000 residents were cut off from their homes and jobs. Prior homelessness in Utah was an isolated and temporary phenomenon. Now it can be predictable, intergenerational and permanent.

Thirty years of homeless health care

Wasatch Homeless Health Care, Inc., began in 1988 in a small office in the newly opened Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center, now known as The Road Home, in the old Westinghouse Warehouse building on 210 S. Rio Grande Street. One part-time nurse coordinated medical services with local hospitals and provided health education and triaged care, overseen by Allan Ainsworth, founder of Wasatch Homeless Health Care.

Then in the early 90s, Wasatch Homeless Health Care purchased the building on the southwest corner of 400 West and 400 South, and Fourth Street Clinic was born.

Now, 30 years later, Fourth Street Clinic operates with a staff of over 60 and a network of 150 volunteer providers and health professionals. Fourth Street Clinic serves over 5,000 homeless men, women and children each year — with 25,000 medical, mental health, substance abuse, dental, and case management visits in 2017. The ALSAM Foundation Pharmacy at Fourth Street Clinic dispensed 70,000 medications in 2017, and these numbers continue to increase year over year.

By increasing homeless Utahns’ access to primary care, Fourth Street Clinic is a major partner in ending homelessness, promoting community health, and achieving across-the-board health care savings.

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Services at Fourth Street