Provo city creates motel voucher program to protect unsheltered residents from winter weather

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The Community Action Services and Food Bank are working with the Provo Police Department to provide help to Provo’s homeless population. The emergency voucher program allows unsheltered residents to stay a night in a motel to get out of the cold. (Ideastream Public Media)

The Community Action Services and Food Bank in conjunction with the Provo City Police Department created an emergency motel voucher program for unsheltered individuals in Provo.

The program provides unsheltered Provo residents with vouchers to stay a night in a motel to escape the cold and winter weather.

“Our emergency shelter program offers a warm, overnight hotel stay as a short-term solution, with access to long-term services,” Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said in a blog post. “There are places to stay if they choose to, and most importantly, those options are safe for those most vulnerable, who do need our protection and help.”

Karen McCandless, CEO of Community Action Services and Food Bank, said they currently have arrangements with some motels to house individuals on an emergency basis. “We don’t have a homelessness shelter in here in Utah County so what we are doing here in Utah County is giving motel vouchers,” McCandless said.

The Community Action received a $40,000 grant from the State of Utah’s emergency overflow funds to help with emergency winter sheltering from October to June.

“If the state has extra money or money available, then they will go to community action agencies and other homeless service providers and ask them if they’d be willing to do that,” McCandless said, “and so of course we are willing to do it.”

The grant is being used to pay for the unsheltered resident’s one night motel stay between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Community Action is working with the Provo Police Department to help people in the early, cold hours of the morning find shelter. McCandless said they have one motel they are working with to provide the vouchers.

Janna-Lee Holland, public information officer at the Provo Police Department, said “If people are needing help between those hours, they can contact the police department and an officer will meet with them and arrange with them to go on an emergency stay at the motel.” The next day, the individuals can go to Community Action to talk about longer term needs.

“It’s short term, get them off the streets when it’s really, really cold out,” McCandless said.

Unsheltered residents can also come to Community Action during daytime hours to use their pantries and get other assistance. During the hours of 6 p.m. to midnight, they can contact the Provo Police Department to get into contact a caseworker who will talk to them, determine need and get them a voucher.

The daytime services and the 6 p.m.-midnight services are currently funded by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the federal government to use towards emergency housing assistance.

In addition to the programs in place by Community Action, the Genesis Project in Provo assists the homeless through movie nights to get them inside on some cold nights. There they can watch a movie, sleep and get out of the cold.

The Food and Care Coalition also helps provide services to help with homelessness. “They’re like a restaurant for those experiencing homelessness. They have showers and different things,” McCandless said.

This just a few of the efforts, in addition to the emergency vouchers, to help unsheltered residents in Provo.

“Our partners are crucial in coordinating life-saving access to shelter. We’re equally grateful for the motels who are willing to partner in sheltering the unsheltered and for the State of Utah for providing funding for the motel stays,” Kaufusi said on her blog.

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