Commentary: Success of new homeless services model depends on continued support

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Shelter the Homeless and Catholic Community Services of Utah (CCS) holds a public open house at the Gail Miller Resource Center on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, with self-guided tours for the public to see the brand new building and learn about the services that will be provided there for both men and women.

Catholic Community Services of Utah and the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City firmly believe in the new homeless resource center model of providing more people-centered services to help permanently move individuals and families out of homelessness.

We understand that the caps on capacity at each of the new centers is necessary to achieve the goal of ensuring that those who come to the centers receive the individualized services they need to stay housed long-term, so they never need a resource center bed or emergency shelter again.

We also know the goal of rendering homelessness brief, rare and non-recurring is achievable only with legislative support. Capacity at the resource centers will not be an issue in the future if legislators commit the funding needed for deeply affordable and permanent supportive housing, case managers, treatment beds, more mental health services and resource center operations.

In the short-term, CCS will continue to do our part to address capacity needs. We provide space to The Road Home in the St. Vincent Dining Hall for emergency overflow shelter every winter. We recently contracted with Shelter the Homeless to keep the Weigand Homeless Resource Center open as a warming center where people experiencing homelessness can come after hours to stay warm and receive services (Weigand was not designed for shelter beds and does not meet fire code requirements for sleeping facilities). Similar to the dining hall, CCS provides the space, and in this case, Shelter the Homeless contracts for the staffing.

These partnerships help Shelter the Homeless and the state address the capacity issues they are currently facing while allowing CCS to focus its attention on its many other services for the vulnerable: the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall (opened in 1967), Weigand Homeless Resource Day Center (opened in 1993), Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden (added to Ogden services in 1994) and operating the Gail Miller Homeless Resource Center (opened in September 2019).

At St. Vincent de Paul, CCS prepares lunch and dinner for the three new resource centers, as well as serving meals at the dining hall and hosting the Good Samaritan sandwich program. Each day, St. Vincent de Paul provides about 2,000 meals to people in need. With this level of food production, CCS is taking advantage of the learning opportunities its kitchen provides to open the St. Vincent Kitchen Academy, a culinary training program for people experiencing homelessness.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the kitchen has been remodeled and our first cohort of students will begin early next year. Trainees will receive case management for one year, help with housing, and leave the program with a job offer from a local restaurant.

The Weigand Homeless Resource Center provides a safe place for individuals to get out of the elements, take a shower, find employment and housing services, receive case management, use a computer, do laundry, get a haircut, attend AA meetings, find clean clothes, attend homeless court and access food stamps, document storage and a medical clinic staffed by 4th Street Clinic. Weigand will continue to provide these services, similar to those available at the new centers, for anyone in need.

The new Gail Miller Resource Center serves 160 men and 40 women with case management, medical, employment, housing and other services and overnight accommodations. Since opening, we have been part of helping clients move out of the center and into lives that make them feel human again. We are honored to be a small part of their life story and are committed to providing high levels of service in spaces that are safe and welcoming to guests, staff and volunteers.

But we can’t do it alone. Without ample funding and effective policies for housing, case management, treatment, and resource center operations, our guests will still have nowhere to call home. We hope legislators will honor our commitment to the new homeless services model with an equal commitment of the ongoing funding necessary for us, and our fellow homeless service providers, to render experiences of homelessness brief, rare and one-time only.

Brad Drake

Shari Seiner

Brad Drake is executive director of Catholic Community Services of Utah. Shari Seiner is chair of the CCS Utah Board of Trustees.

Jean Hill

Jean Hill is director of the Office of Life, Justice & Peace of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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