Two sources at the Magnolia Apartments, claim they were heralded as being a “safe, housing-first, community.” But the $16.4 million facility with 54 units has become much different than the intended vision. According to two sources who reside there, this is resulting in death, crime and a cesspool of illegal activity both in the apartments as well as the surrounding neighborhood. According to both residents and business owners, since the opening of the apartment complex, the neighborhood has drastically deteriorated.
Utah Stories first reported on the Magnolia more than a year ago when an inside source described the Housing First apartments as a “completed failure.” Have conditions improved at Magnolia in the past year? “No, they have gotten worse,” our source told Utah Stories.
Since our story first broke, we have been unable to speak with upper management, which is operated by the Road Home. Neither the PR person for Road Home nor the Executive Director will get back to us. Utah Stories also made a GRAMMA request to the Salt Lake City Police Department Records Department, but so far they haven’t complied with our request.
Magnolia was completed in 2019 with much fanfare and excitement, opening a new chapter in public housing. The facilities were beautiful, offering balcony views and quartz countertops to the tenants there, many of whom had suffered from years of chronic homelessness. Public Housing in Salt Lake City was considered a resounding success, with officials, such as the Homeless Policy Coordinator at the time, Lloyd Pendelton, claiming they had “solved homelessness” back in 2015. Since 2016, the homeless situation in Salt Lake City has only gotten worse.
Since 2005, Utah’s lawmakers have been strong proponents of “Housing First” policies. This policy is to provide permanent supportive housing to individuals who are in the most need of receiving free “no-strings-attached” public housing so they can work out their problems associated with mental illness and addiction indoors rather than suffer on the streets.
This system is operated using a points system which is used to determine housing placement based on need. Those who can demonstrate severe disabilities and a history of chronic homelessness receive the most points and receive preferential treatment in obtaining free housing sooner than those who are less severe. While the best of intentions were in mind, this system has exacerbated homeless conditions and squalor by incentivizing the severity of disabilities and duration on the streets, essentially creating a race to the bottom.
While this same policy was celebrated for its effectiveness in “solving homelessness” in Salt Lake City, gaining national attention and acclaim, other early-adopter cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Los Angeles are beginning to question its effectiveness.
Solutions Utah CEO Paul Webster, who served under the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department commented on the Utah Stories podcast about the Housing First reward points system, saying, “The biggest policy decision that they made was, ‘we’re going to treat homelessness as a housing problem only.’”
An anonymous source currently living in the Magnolia Apartments shared a letter with Utah Stories to alert attention to all of the difficulties she has experienced while living in the apartments. The source said she experienced harassment in many different forms from many people throughout her stay at these apartments.
In the quote below, the source is pleading for help because of the mistreatment she has received at the Magnolia Apartments.
“But on my behalf, I have no one. Mayor Erin, you gotta help me. I am scared and I just want to live comfortably. I haven’t felt that for some time; not since last year in November 2021. I have the dates, times and exactly what was said and I also have pictures. I can’t believe they let these tenants ruin a $17,000,000 dollar building,” she said.
She also described not getting food service after asking for it multiple times. “On Friday, the girl that filled hers out, she got her food order with a turkey for Thanksgiving, but I didn’t. I asked and they said ‘sorry, but here is food for the weekend and Thanksgiving is next week.’ I was sad but I waited and one of the case managers, Brandon, knocked on my door and gave me some refried beans, broth and noodles. At this time I was hungry but just went without [food] for the whole weekend.”
She described how distressing it is to live in the Magnolia Apartments between not receiving food and going weekends without proper nourishment, to living in a bug-infested apartment.
As of June 2023: “Please Mayor Erin, the workers of Magnolia kick these people out so they end up dying. It’s sad how they are not helping people like they say they are. I still haven’t seen a doctor or had any help with No See Ums. I am scared and I don’t want to die from whatever these things are in my unit. They keep ignoring my request,” the source said.