The Road Home knows the holiday season is a time when the spirit of giving and considerations of those less fortunate are on people’s minds.
Not coincidentally, the organization stages an annual “Holiday Media-a-Thon” as a means of turning such thoughts into tangible and meaningful action.
The private nonprofit social services agency geared toward combating homelessness will see its 23rd annual telethon fundraiser take place Dec. 20-21. The event will feature about a dozen local media entities — including radio stations from the Broadway and Bonneville media corporations, and KUTV Channel 2 — broadcasting from The Road Home’s downtown shelter lobby, all the while soliciting donations from the public.
“This is one of our largest fundraisers of the year, both in terms of monetary and in-kind donations,” said Alicia Gleed, The Road Home’s marketing and events specialist. “We have had donors who will match donations dollar for dollar, so it’s tremendously important.”
Donations can be made via theroadhome.org, with more than $24,000 in contributions having been made as of Friday afternoon. Once the telethon is underway, monetary donations can also be made by call-ins or via links on the participating media entities’ websites.
In-kind donations can also be brought to either the Salt Lake Community Shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande St. or the Midvale Center at 529 W. 7300 South. Gleed also encouraged the public to check The Road Home’s website for volunteer opportunities.
A report in September revealed that the organization was on course to spend $1.6 million for the year (about $4,400 per night) on motel stays for families after emptying the family wing of its downtown shelter in July as a condition of receiving state funding. Officials sought to move services for families out of the troubled Rio Grande neighborhood, but such a shift could cost double what the state allocated.
Meanwhile, stays at the shelter are up since the August implementation of Operation Rio Grande, a police-led campaign to clear crime from the area.
With programs dedicated to emergency shelter and services, case management, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing. The Road Home spent $10.8 million in 2016 to serve more than 6,000 people. As a result, it maintains a need for public financial support.
“There’s so many programs that require funding — emergency shelter, the housing program,” Gleed said. “As demand is increasing, we’re looking to do everything we can to meet the demand.”
As a result, donations are not earmarked for specific programs but are used for ”a broad spectrum” of needs — including such basic services as keeping the lights on and water running in the buildings. “We just put it wherever we need it,” Gleed added.
Last year’s telethon raised about $2.2 million, and Gleed noted that “a generous match by the Huntsman Family Foundation” boosted the final tally to about $3.3 million. The Huntsman Foundation established funding 25 years ago to assist The Road Home with ongoing costs and has contributed about $10 million toward it.
Christena Huntsman Durham, trustee for The Road Home, said these funds continue to be a valuable source of assistance to the homeless. “Our family is thrilled to be part of this important program that helps the less fortunate, particularly during this most difficult time of year,” she said.
Gleed added that The Road Home hopes to raise about $3.5 million in total this year.
Matt Minkevitch, executive director of The Road Home, said the holiday telethon is a critical fundraiser. He applauded the media organizations, corporations, small businesses and church and school groups for joining forces on an important community need.
The fundraiser, Minkevitch said, “helps to sustain our agency’s efforts to help people in from the streets and out of the cold. From there, it helps people to move out of homelessness and back into housing. Thanks to philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman’s contribution to match the people’s goodwill, a person’s contribution is in effect doubled. For all who are involved with this effort, we are so deeply grateful.”
With several new homeless resource centers and shelters in the works for the Salt Lake Valley in coming years, The Road Home is tentatively scheduled for a June 2019 closure.
Gleed acknowledged that she was uncertain what changes might be in the works, given such developments, noting that there are “so many thoughtful minds at the table that are trying to solve homelessness. It’s exciting to look toward the future, but I don’t know what that will look like.”
And so she’s focusing on the here and now, all too aware that there’s plenty to be done in the meantime, and that every dollar donated will make a legitimate difference.
“Right now, we’re just focusing on serving people who turn to us every day,” Gleed said. “… We’re just so grateful. Donations — both in-kind and monetary — will supplement our programs for the rest of the year. We really appreciate all the support we get from people.”
Editor’s note: The owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune is Paul Huntsman. He is a son of Huntsman Foundation founder Jon M. Huntsman and a brother of Christena Huntsman Durham.