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For the homeless and others who lived ‘a complicated life,’ Utah’s Inn Between offers a comfortable place to die

First Published      Last Updated Jul 11 2016 03:24 pm

Terminally ill and homeless, people in need of health care and a roof over their heads take up residence in a renovated school.

Lee Archuletta told his wife, Janice, last week to empty the water-filled milk jugs he was using as weights.

"I think I'm about done," Lee said. He planned to sleep, "but it's going to be a long nap."

Soon after, the 57-year-old was dead. Cancer had stripped every ounce of strength from the man who once prided himself on his toned, muscular body.

Janice cradled Lee in her arms July 1 as he took his last breath at the Inn Between: in a bed with clean sheets, a roof over his head and access to health care.

If not for that organization, Utah's first hospice for the homeless, Lee might have died on the hot, concrete streets of Salt Lake City or in a homeless shelter.

"I love this place," Janice said. Homeless people "can live here and be treated like gold."

In August 2015, the Inn Between opened its doors — and its 16 beds — in the renovated Guadalupe School and former Catholic convent at 340 S. Goshen St. in Salt Lake City. Funded almost entirely through private donations, the center provides food, clothing and health care to the terminally ill and homeless Utahns who live there.

When those individuals die, the organization holds a memorial service and sets families up with a funeral home that offers cremation at a lowered cost.

"We opened with the goal to ensure no one has to die on the streets of Salt Lake City any longer," said Kim Correa, the organization's executive director. "We opened up this home so they could have a dignified end-of-life experience."

Complicated lives • The Beatles' "In My Life" trickled through a converted classroom Wednesday at the Inn Between as tissue-clutching men and women settled into mismatched chairs.

Perched upon a table in the room now reserved for memorial services sits a thin binder, opened to Lee's obituary and a photo of Janice and him.

Lee's is the ninth obituary nestled in this binder: the ninth person saved by the Inn Between from dying on the streets or in an overcrowded homeless shelter. The nonprofit holds a memorial service for every person who dies here.

Employees work diligently to find family members so they can say their last goodbyes. These family members often are estranged, Correa said, told by counselors, family and friends to stay away because of the person's mental illness, substance abuse or frequent stints in jail.

But, Correa said, family members almost always attend the services. Lee's was no exception.

About 20 family members and friends came Wednesday to say goodbye to Lee, remembering him as a hard worker, a loving husband, a loyal man.

Until his last days, Lee was the guy who rode shopping carts into displays at grocery stores, laughing as they toppled over; who ate a jalapeño with every meal; who made Janice home-cooked meals while she cleaned houses to make ends meet.

Janice and Lee met at a halfway house, she said, where they both lived after being in prison for drug-related offenses . Their love and marriage of 13 years, Janice said Wednesday, was "wonderful and true."

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