Provision of housing for the community

As of January 2020, around 3,100 people in Utah were homeless, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. According to a 2019 report by the Weber Housing Authority, between 13 and 16% of this homeless population live in Weber County.

The World Population Review states that the current population of Ogden is approximately 89,000, with an average increase of 0.65% annually. As Ogden’s population grows, so does the homeless population, which the report said could be due to Operation Rio Grande in Salt Lake City.

Uninhabited people find shelter either on the street or in local homeless shelters. One of these accommodations is the Ogden Rescue Mission, a non-denominational Christian organization with 97 beds, a free clinic and a church service.

The Lantern House has more than 300 beds, making it the largest animal shelter in the state of Utah. (Nikki Dorber / The Guide)

Rescue Mission Director Judy Doud explained that the New Life program is about a Christian curriculum and the way things work. Everyone has breakfast in the morning and then goes to the Bible study.

The recovery course is around noon and the guests are then assigned some housework, be it kitchen or lawn work. The rehab course is the 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 stated that there are people who do not want to participate in the program and end up only staying for a limited time unless they do.

“When they’re tired of being homeless or wanting something more in life, we ask them to take Jesus Christ into their lives and have a more positive outlook on life,” said Doud.

Doud explained that many people come to us with drug or alcohol problems. There are programs similar to AA meetings to help them overcome these addictions. After starting the process, guests will be assigned a dormitory.

The Lantern House is located in Ogden, Utah (Nikki Dorber / The Signpost)The lantern house is located in Ogden, Utah. (Nikki Dorber / The Guide)

One special person who is back on her feet and working for the Ogden Rescue Mission is Eddrena Loveland. She said that prior to her homelessness experience, she was a married truck driver who was surrounded by a handful of bad influences.

Loveland is a mother of three who was homeless for a year after abandoning her abusive husband. She was addicted and slept in motels across town during the day while she worked.

Loveland said she stumbled upon the rescue mission drunk and drunk around 2 a.m. one night. Doud picked her up and she stayed overnight.

“I tried to leave the next morning but was very inclined to change my life; I’ve been here for 19 months since then, ”said Loveland.

Thirteen of those 19 months were spent on the programs Loveland needed to recover. She now works in the front office and attends school to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

Another refuge in Ogden, the Lantern House, also offers these people a safe haven.

“We exist to provide safe shelter and food for the low-income and homeless people of Utah,” said executive director Lauren Navidomskis.

This facility is the largest in the state of Utah with 330 beds and year-round emergency shelter. Three warm meals a day or 125,000 meals a year are served to all those in need in the community. Guests are encouraged to participate in the shelter program, which cares for 2,200 people annually.

The shelter also receives funding for the programs and essential services. These funds help individuals obtain housing, birth certificates, or anything else that can help them get back on their feet.

An aftercare program is available when you move out. A clerk visits and checks in regularly to make sure the person stays on track with daily life.

Navidomskis stated that in many of the cases she sees, drugs and alcohol are actually not the main causes of homelessness.

“Instead, it’s a mental illness that is followed by an addiction to coping and escapism,” she said.

The Lantern House in Ogden is the newest homeless shelter in Utah.  (Nikki Dorber / The Guide)The Lantern House in Ogden is the newest homeless shelter in Utah. (Nikki Dorber / The Guide)

Many people who advocate the homeless, like Doud and Navidomskis, want more people to understand that homelessness can be caused by a number of situations, not just drug or alcohol abuse. These situations can include job loss, lack of income to afford life, divorce, eviction, addictions, mental health, and victims of domestic violence.

Doud said there was an influx of people seeking shelter during the winter months, and Navidomskis said she saw an increase in the months of August, with peaks in February and March. Both properties reported that there were more people in need in the colder months than at any other time of the year.

The pandemic is also having a significant impact on the homelessness rates in the community. The Ogden Rescue Mission was closed for safety reasons during the height of COVID-19 due to an influx of unhealthy people.

The rescue mission has reopened since May 2021. The lantern house remained open to the public, but adapted many of its protocols to the guidelines of the CDC.

Navidomskis stated that despite regular testing by customers, there was an outbreak at the facility in October 2020.

“There were 47 positive customers within 48 hours, four of whom died another 48 hours later,” she said. “We felt very helpless, but we were able to get help from the county so that the medical staff would stay here overnight to make sure it couldn’t go on.”

Both properties, along with many others in Utah, are nonprofit organizations and encourage people to register for volunteer service. Donations are also open and are accepted by the community around the clock.

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