All the plumbing and electrical is done, most of the walls are up, and soon St. Anne’s will be ready to start furnishing its new Lantern House facility at 33rd Street and Pacific Avenue in Ogden. With the hopes of having a grand opening in May, shelter board members and facility managers are scrambling to secure the final donations needed.
“I am personally really proud of the efforts our Northern Utah collective have put together. I think we are one of the more progressive,” said Mayor Mike Caldwell. “We don’t just seek to put someone up for a night. You know the quote, ‘Don’t seek to feed a person for a day, teach them to fish and feed them for a lifetime?’ That’s what they have really tried to do with homelessness in Ogden city.”
The project was started in 2009 by Mayor Matthew Godfrey when the city donated the property. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided the first $1.5 million toward the $7 million goal to start the building. Since then, the established capital campaign committee has been writing grants and working with philanthropists to get the funds to pay for the facility.
St. Anne’s tax form 990, ending on June 30, 2013, showed there were 4,780 people who volunteered at the shelter. Stacey Gallegos, St. Anne’s development manager, said she is grateful for all that volunteer their time to the shelter, and that without them, the shelter would not be able to accomplish many of its daily tasks.
“Volunteers are welcome, especially while moving things to the new location,” Gallegos said, adding that one of the campaigns to get the Lantern House ready is for individuals to donate their time to stay the night at the new shelter prior to opening to bring awareness and make sure all the cameras, door locks and intercoms are working properly.
“That’s because we are willing to help each other out. We’re willing to volunteer and make contributions,” Caldwell said. “The new Lantern House facility would not be made possible without the generosity of the community members who live here. The fact that it is built and coming up right now is a testament to how charitable the people are, and we do live in a really amazing community. Without the broad base of support, we wouldn’t be able to do some of the unique work these great people have accomplished.”
Utah’s efforts to combat chronic homelessness is explained in its 2014 Comprehensive Report on homelessness, which revealed that an estimated 13,621 persons experienced some form of homelessness throughout the state, with families making up almost half of that number. The report shows that homeless people in Weber-Morgan county make up 1,162, which is roughly 0.47 percent of the area population.
While the Utah approach is to provide housing for the homeless, which has eradicated homelessness in Utah by an estimated 75 percent, the housing program has not reached Ogden yet, but Caldwell said they are open to expanding this program. Currently Ogden works with the Weber Housing Authority to provide affordable housing.
“It used to be just men and a few women who were staying with us, but now we have more and more families with us continuously,” said Gallegos, adding that the face of homelessness has changed dramatically over the last 10 years.
With these changes, shelters are being presented with new challenges that they sometimes find difficult to resolve with the limited means they have available.
St. Anne’s has had to shift its day-to-day operations, as well as many of the programs it is able to provide to the estimated 200 people it accommodates each night. For example, the shelter has had to split up families when boys become teenagers because of the limited space available.
Originating as a Goodwill soup kitchen in 1981, through the collaboration of the local Episcopalian, Lutheran and Catholic churches, St. Anne’s has evolved into a 90-day emergency shelter that services hundreds of individuals throughout the year, providing basic human necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing.
“Our main goal here is to make sure, especially during the winter time, that there is not one single person sleeping outside in the elements,” Gallegos said. “We want to make sure they are in here, they’re safe, warm and that they are secure.”
St. Anne’s currently has two dorm rooms where multiple bunks are placed a mere two-feet apart and fill up quickly. However, it never turns anyone away, even if that means crowding people into every inch of available space.
“We have a limited amount of beds, and once those are full, those who come in after that time—we won’t turn them away—they sleep on our lobby floor, literally back to back,” Gallegos said.
Although St. Anne’s runs off the strict rule to never turn anyone away, it requires that everyone be out of the facility lobby by 5:30 a.m. and everyone out of the dorms by 7:30 a.m., which sometimes can be dangerous to the homeless who are not stable enough to leave and to the public as well.
Check in-time is 6 p.m., although there are some that come in later, sometimes intoxicated, looking for a place to sleep. Gallegos said some come in at late as 3 a.m. are not in a condition to leave by 5:30 a.m., but because they are being housed on the lobby floor they must leave, which leads to accidents involving cars on Wall Avenue.
Deputy Director of Administration for the Ogden city police, John Harvey, said the department works diligently to keep the homeless and public safe. In 2013 there was an accident in which a car hit two individuals crossing Wall Avenue. One died and the other was seriously injured, so UDOT put in a crosswalk and light across Wall Avenue directly in front of St. Anne’s, to reduce the number of car accidents and pedestrians getting hit.
“It began with just red flags, but they added the flashing lights to caution motorists that someone was crossing the street,” Harvey said. “As I recall, one maybe two of the fatalities involved alcohol as well, so that is something the police department tries to educate people on. If you are going to be drinking, stay where you are, don’t try to cross that busy street.”
Gallegos said the current relationship between the shelter and Ogden police is very cooperative, and that when they move to the new Lantern House, they hope to extend it even further by incorporating a system where the police can bring homeless found on the street, especially those who have been drinking, to the shelter rather than be taken to jail to sober up.
“Instead of booking them into the jail system and clogging up the jail system, which cost taxpayers more money, they can be brought to the shelter to sober up and get some sleep and food,” she said.
Bill Keffeler, St. Anne’s spokesman, said between the jail stays and emergency room visits, this new system will provide a huge economic value on the health care side of things.
“They will be able to bring people here rather than have them stay at an emergency room or hospital,” Keffeler said. “We partner with Intermountain Health Care so that after the initial evaluation, if a patient doesn’t need to stay, they are sent to St. Anne’s.”
Right now, those who come in after checkout or who are intoxicated are not allowed to go upstairs to take showers, but the Lantern House will offer two showers, toilets and sinks in its diversion room. There will be separate diversion rooms for men and women. The entry for the diversion rooms and after hours entry are separate from the main entrance. A security guard will always be at the diversion entrance to check-in latecomers, such as when the police might bring someone after their initial evaluation.
“We are constantly making shifts and moving and adapting to whatever situation is given to us,” Gallegos said. “At the Lantern House, we will have more options and more space to house and provide for all those who come to us. It’s going to be very nice.”
Keffler said the Lantern House is a great example of the community working together to find solutions to problems that are costing community while providing a good service to help the homeless have a fighting chance.
“As you start to spend time around these individuals, you realize they have the same aspirations and dreams as everyone else,” said Bill Keffeler. “I look at it pretty pragmatically now, and we just need to be willing to give a helping hand to try and help people get back on their feet.” He added that it’s not about judging people or trying to figure out why they’re there or not there, but more about leveling the playing field a little bit to give them the best chance to be successful in their lives.
Gallegos points out that when someone has had a good night sleep and a shower they are more able and motivated to go out and look for employment and housing.
Gallegos says there is one concern about the new location. It is not on a main street, visible to the public and that people may forget that it exists or may not realize a new facility has been built.
The current location will be used as a donation facility for a short period of time during the transition. St. Anne’s runs strictly off donations for facility maintenance, programs, medical needs and food. They are currently in need of beds, mostly bunk beds, so they are holding a campaign for people to sponsor a bed for the homeless. To find out more about their needs check out their website at www.stannescenter.org.
However, for those unable to donate enough for a bed, but still want to donate are welcome to do so. Keffeler said he thinks people forget that even just a dollar or two will still provide the help and assistance the shelter needs to keep running efficiently.
“What’s going to sustain us into the future is not my generation, it’s your generation, and I think a lot of that is going to be around grassroots movements that allow the community, on a regular basis to contribute,” Keffeler said. “It doesn’t have to be a lot, because even $2 or $5 adds up quick, especially when you’re talking about a lot of people.”