A tale of two neighborhoods: How a homeless hospice has divided members of an east-side Salt Lake City community

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sophie Anderson is raising a family in Salt Lake City just blocks from The INN Between and has been spearheading a movement to get the shelter out of her neighborhood — or at least to keep it from expanding from 50 beds to 75. She is pictured Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

When The INN Between moved to the east side of Salt Lake City in May, neighbors worried the medical care center for the homeless would operate as a de facto shelter and increase crime and traffic in their community.

Six months later, the battle between the nonprofit clinic and a small group of residents there continues to escalate.

Sophia Anderson and Tammy Castleforte, a pair of savvy Sugar House moms living near The INN Between, are spearheading the movement to get the center out of their neighborhood — or at least to keep it from expanding from 50 beds to 75.

They’ve shown up at community meetings to voice their dissent. They’ve kept a photo log of residents in an effort to substantiate their assertions of criminal activity. They’ve raised nearly $5,500 through a GoFundMe account to hire legal counsel for advice. They’re even considering forming a limited liability corporation that would help them better organize.

“Being willing to take on the fight, it’s turned my life upside down,” said Anderson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. “This is like a full-time job.”

The INN Between has pushed back just as hard. Staffers have booted both women from the center’s monthly neighborhood advisory meetings. They’ve issued them no trespass orders on the property. They’ve delivered a cease-and-desist order to Anderson and others for what they call “false and misleading statements” made online about the organization and its operations.

Kim Correa, executive director of The INN Between, and Matilda Lindgren, the facility’s program director, say the fight typifies an ongoing “not in my neighborhood" sentiment that demonizes an entire group of people and equates homelessness with criminality.

“Somebody living on the hill right here in a million-dollar McMansion can be a drug kingpin,” Correa said. “They can be a child molester, too. They can be all those types of evil and somebody living in the poorest little modest house on the west side can be a model citizen.”

Those who oppose the facility in the neighborhood say they’re compassionate and want people experiencing homelessness to receive services. But they believe no one is taking seriously their concerns about the ways they have seen their community fundamentally transformed — a characterization many of their neighbors dispute.

“It’s so funny, you say, ‘I kind of have some concerns about a homeless shelter being in my neighborhood’ and all of a sudden, you’re uncompassionate; you’re a bigot,” Anderson said. “I have never been called the names I’ve been called over this.”

‘A basic part of dignity’

On a recent Wednesday morning, the halls of The INN Between are quiet as Lindgren and Correa walk through the cozy building on 1300 South near 1200 East. They greet each resident by name as they pass, and their efforts are returned with wide smiles.

The women say they try not to get distracted by the ruckus some neighbors are raising outside these walls. They have enough to contend with in here.

“It’s really hard,” says Correa as she talks about serving her residents, who range from nearing death to seeking treatment for cancer or ailments that might not be terminal. “It is. It’s really hard.”

“It’s definitely sad,” Lindgren interjects. “But I feel like the alternative is so awful that, for me, I mean, even … even with a death, it’s bittersweet, I guess. Because I just feel so grateful that they were here with us and not on the street.”

At its former location on Goshen Street on Salt Lake City’s west side, The INN Between had 16 beds. But the demand for services was much higher, Correa said. So the nonprofit jumped at the opportunity to buy this building, which operated before as a skilled-nursing facility, when it came up for sale. It was already zoned for medical purposes, so the new owners didn’t have to go through a cumbersome zoning-change process before they opened.

While it had felt like a long time coming for The INN Between, neighbors were stunned at the speed of the project. They raised concerns about the number of patients, its licensure and the types of treatment it offers to people experiencing homelessness — concerns Anderson and Castleforte still echo.

“Our issues are many,” Castleforte said. “They’re about the licensing. They’re about the zoning. It’s about the operations. It’s about the fundraising. It’s about the money.”

Their primary concern, though, is that the facility provides care not just to those on hospice but also to people with a number of other health issues. And if anyone with a medical problem can stay at the site, they say, it’s operating as a de facto homeless shelter.

Getting into a bed at The INN Between requires a doctor’s referral, and the facility is zoned with 25 beds for hospice patients and 25 beds for those who are sick. Correa has applied for an exception to that, which would allow 75 beds. Although she says the facility doesn’t anticipate having more than 50 patients at any one time, that would offer more flexibility if it needed to serve more than 25 patients who qualify for one of the sides, for example.

The INN Between has always acknowledged that it offers treatment to people with varying ailments, Correa said. And that’s an important part of the facility’s work, she noted, because small wounds or health problems that are a simple fix for someone with money can be life-altering for someone on the streets. One of their patients has had an untreated leg wound for three years; now, her leg may need to be amputated.

“We don’t say, ‘Well, you have to be mostly dead to be here,’ you know?” Correa said. “We just want to make sure that they’re not suffering on the street.”

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kim Correa, executive director for the INN Between, a hospice for the homeless in Salt Lake City, talks about the nonprofit's new home at an existing assisted living facility at 1216 E. 1300 South, during a news conference in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, May 3, 2018.

‘Not in anyone’s backyard’

Ann Beck, 69, lives less than half a mile away from The INN Between and said she won’t sit on her porch at night anymore due to an “increase in suspicious traffic” since The INN Between has settled in the neighborhood.

Suzanne Stephenson, 60, lives on the same street and said she’s seen people she presumes to be homeless come into the neighborhood and sleep in their cars. And Anderson, who lives two blocks away from the facility, has stopped letting her four children walk home from school, noting that there are registered sex offenders at the location.

“They have brought increased risk into our neighborhood,” Castleforte said of The INN Between, noting that she’s seen what she would characterize as drug deals.

Other neighbors paint a very different version of their community.

Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall lives near The INN Between and said she hasn’t seen an impact from the facility — and neither have most of the people she’s heard from.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) When The INN Between, a Salt Lake City homeless hospice for those with terminal illnesses, moved into this small neighborhood on Salt Lake City’s east side in May, residents worried it would operate as a de facto homeless shelter and bring increased crime. Six months later, they say their worst fears have come true. Friday Nov. 16, 2018.

“I’ve had more comments by far from residents who have said it has had little to no impact on the experience, and they’re glad that that population is able to find housing in a safe place,” she said. “That’s the primary theme of what I hear.”

Eric Klein, 36, lives on 1300 East near The INN Between and described the area as “quiet” after the arrival of the facility in the neighborhood, with much less traffic than when it was Hillside rehab.

And Tony Milner, who lives up the street from The INN Between, added that while the supporters for the facility aren’t as loud or as organized as its opponents, there are more of them. That’s why he’s joined a group called Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) to help rally support behind the facility.

“I was just surprised to see that there are still issues,” said Milner, 39, who has three young children. “Because since [The INN Between has] been there, I haven’t seen anything. There hasn’t been an increase in traffic; there haven’t been any incidents that I’m aware of.”

The INN Between has proposed that neighbors use the money raised through the GoFundMe account for cameras to surveil the area rather than for legal counsel. But Castleforte and Anderson said their goal isn’t mitigation.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sophie Anderson is raising a family in Salt Lake City just blocks from The INN Between and has been spearheading a movement to get the shelter out of her neighborhood — or at least to keep it from expanding from 50 beds to 75. Friday Nov. 16, 2018.

“Some people have mentioned, ‘What if we get some more police there?’” Anderson said. “We are not interested in any way, shape or form for The INN Between or any facility like it to be in a residential neighborhood. You do not put any type of homeless population, a high-risk population, in a neighborhood.”

This “not-In-anyone’s-backyard attitude” doesn’t make any sense to Correa, who called it dehumanizing.

“Why isn’t this located in an industrial zone? Well, these aren’t washing machines we’re housing, they’re people,” she said. “People live with people.”

‘A new level' of opposition

Residents at The INN Between know they’re not wanted in the community, Correa said. They know they’re being watched when they walk outside to stretch their legs, know their moves are being photographed.

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Neighbors around The INN Between compiled this photo log of what they see as problems in the neighborhood.

“They know what they have and they don’t want to lose it,” she said. “And they work really hard to be good members of our community. They work really, really hard for that.”

Originally from Nephi, Orval Boss, 56, said he became homeless in 2017 as his medical bills began stacking up. A diabetic who’s had four amputations, he’s being treated at the facility for a heart condition and bone infection in his foot.

Staffers at The INN Between have saved Boss’ life “more times than I can count,” he said, and it’s a place where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Some neighbors have treated him well when he walks outside to get some fresh air, he said, but he can “pinpoint the houses” where the “nosy bodies” live.

“If we’re standing outside waiting for a ride or whatever, having a cigarette, they’re taking pictures,” he said, pointing to the houses north of the facility.

Kay Adams, 72, has been at The INN Between for a little under a month and said she’s become aware of the neighborhood opposition to the medical center. But the characterization of the residents as drug-addicted criminals is false, she said. Adams herself, who has lived in shelters across the United States, including The Road Home in downtown Salt Lake City, has been sober for more than 30 years.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kim Adams was homeless and now lives at the Inn Between in Salt Lake City on Wednesday Dec. 12, 2018.

“I wouldn’t want to live in a neighborhood where you had to worry about your kids going outside and finding someone’s hypodermic needle or whatever,” she said. “I see your point. But that’s the reason we have laws. And if something’s going on in this neighborhood that they feel threatened with, they need to get ahold of the police department and say, ‘Look, I’ve got a problem, can you come out?’”

Though The INN Between faced opposition at its Goshen Street location, the residents there were never able to organize as effectively as these Sugar House neighbors, who Correa speculated have more education and resources and are better connected.

“It’s a new level,” she said.

Castleforte and Anderson have secured a lawyer but haven’t settled yet on pursuing legal action. Their crusade against The INN Between will continue, though, and it may seep into other communities, as well.

“We are adamant that it not be located in our neighborhood and, most importantly, in anyone’s neighborhood,” Anderson said at a recent town hall hearing about The INN Between. “Our group has made a promise, a pact to each other, that we will not quit until The INN Between is out of our neighborhood, and they can never move into anyone else’s neighborhood.”

The INN Between has no plans to move. And Correa said that while she doesn’t believe she’ll ever be able to win over opponents, she hopes they’ll temper their “hateful” rhetoric.

“Even someone who has had a checkered past, if given the right circumstances and people who are believing in them, can turn their life around and do amazing things,” she said. “I would just ask people to keep an open mind.”