As of January 2020, about 3,100 people in Utah were homeless, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Between 13 and 16 percent of that homeless population is in Weber County, according to a 2019 Weber Housing Authority report.
The World Population Review indicates that Ogden’s current population is around 89,000, with an average increase of 0.65% per year. With the increase in Ogden’s population, the homeless population also continues to accelerate, which the report says may be due to Operation Rio Grande in Salt Lake City.
Homeless people find refuge either on the streets or in local homeless shelters. One of these shelters is the Ogden Rescue Mission, which is a 97-bed, non-denominational Christian organization with a free clinic and chapel service.
Judy Doud, Director of the Rescue Mission, explained that the New Life program is all about a Christian agenda and how things work. In the morning, everyone has breakfast and then attends the Bible study.
The recuperation class takes place around noon and guests are assigned a chore afterwards, whether it’s cooking or lawn work. The rehabilitation class is last on the list; these classes also contain Christian teachings. Dinner is also served open every evening at 6 p.m., 365 days a year. Doud also explained that there are people who come here not wanting to take the program and end up only staying for a limited time unless they attend.
“If they are tired of being homeless or wanting something more in life, we ask them to accept Jesus Christ into their life and have a more positive outlook on life,” Doud said. .
Doud said a lot of people come with drug or alcohol problems. There are programs similar to AA meetings to help them overcome these addictions. After starting the process, guests are assigned a dormitory.
One in particular, now back on his feet and working for the Ogden Rescue Mission, is Eddrena Loveland. She said that before her homeless experience, she was a married truck driver with a handful of bad influences surrounding her.
Loveland is a mother of three who experienced homelessness for a year after leaving her abusive husband. She was a drug addict and slept in motels in town while working during the day.
Loveland said she came across the rescue mission one night around 2 a.m., drunk and high. Doud took her away and she ended up spending the night.
âI tried to leave the next morning, but I was very inclined to change my life; I’ve been here since, for the past 19 months, âLoveland said.
Thirteen of those 19 months were spent on the programs Loveland needed to recover. She now works at the front desk and attends school to become a drug and alcohol counselor.
Another refuge within Ogden, the Lantern House, also provides a safe haven for these people.
âWe exist to provide safe and secure food and shelter for the low-income and homeless population of Utah,â said Executive Director Lauren Navidomskis.
This facility is the largest in the state of Utah, with 330 beds and a year-round emergency shelter. Three hot meals are served daily, or 125,000 meals per year, to anyone in need in the community. Customers are encouraged to participate in the accommodation program which serves 2,200 people per year.
The shelter also receives funds for essential programs and services. These funds help individuals obtain housing opportunities, birth certificates or anything else that can help them get back on their feet.
A follow-up program is available when a person moves. A social worker visits and checks in regularly to make sure the person is staying on track with everyday life.
Navidomskis explained that drugs and alcohol are actually not the main cause of homelessness in many of the cases she sees.
âInstead, it’s mental illness which is then followed by addiction to cope and escape,â she said.
Many people working to help the homeless, like Doud and Navidomskis, want more people to understand that homelessness can be caused by a number of situations and not just by drug or alcohol abuse. These situations could include job loss, lack of income to pay for what they were going through, divorce, deportation, substance abuse, mental health, and victims of domestic violence.
Doud said there was an influx of people seeking shelter around the winter months and Navidomskis said she saw an increase during August, with peaks in February and March. Both shelters said there were more people in need during the colder months than at any other time of the year.
The pandemic has also had a substantial impact on homeless rates within the community. Ogden’s rescue mission closed during the height of COVID-19 for security reasons due to an influx of unhealthy people.
The rescue mission has reopened since May 2021. The Lantern House has remained open to the public, but has adjusted many of its protocols to follow CDC guidelines.
Navidomskis explained that despite regular screening of clients, there was an outbreak at the facility in October 2020.
âWithin 48 hours, there were 47 positive clients, four of whom died 48 hours later,â she said. “We felt very helpless, but we were able to get help from the county to keep the medical staff here overnight to make sure this didn’t continue.”
These two shelters, along with many others in Utah, are nonprofit organizations and encourage people to sign up for volunteer help. Donations are also open and accepted 24/7 from the community.
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