Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Win Win we have been looking for!

Rescue mission plans to head west

Homeless haven » Crowded facility near Pioneer Park eyes a larger campus in the warehouse area.

By Derek P. Jensen

Thanks to: The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 12/06/2008 07:53:01 AM MST

For 30 years, the homeless and addicted could count on a sack lunch, a shower, a shave and sometimes a bed at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake near downtown's Pioneer Park.

The nondenominational nonprofit has served as a social-service anchor, along with the nearby Fourth Street Clinic, Catholic Community Services and The Road Home.

But despite performing mini-miracles for three decades, mission officials no longer can escape a nagging reality: Their place is too cramped, too broken down.

Quietly, the mission team has plotted an ambitious plan for the future. They recently bought five acres for a new campus -- it would quadruple the dorm space, double the recovery program and offer, for the first time, day care and
health care -- at 2945 W. 900 South. There also is an architectural effort to reconfigure 900 South for bus service in the industrial area if the Utah Transit Authority signs off.

But to pull off the move, the mission needs the city to endorse a zoning amendment that would allow residential use near the warehouses. A vote likely won't come before spring, but the city has organized a Dec. 18 open house to gather input.

"We really don't have an alternative. We put people in the chapel, in the hallways, wherever we can," says Stephen Trost, president of the mission. "The good news for the city is it relieves pressure on Pioneer Park."

Key to the move's success is expanding services beyond the ranks of the homeless to the
public at large. Trost notes talks are ongoing with third-party providers to establish a public health clinic and day-care facility. He argues the plan offers two amenities: new medical and dental services at no cost to the city, and child care for nearby manufacturers.

"There's a lot of need for people who work in those businesses for day care," Trost says.

City planner Nick Norris notes the area zoning must be changed since the West Salt Lake Master Plan does not allow residential use there. He expects the issue to go before the Planning Commission in January or February.

Fellow service providers say a move would require reliable transportation but otherwise would have a negligible impact.

"The only thing that saddens me is they're not going to be a hop, skip and jump away," says Jose Lazaro, director of emergency services for Catholic Community Services.

Monte Hanks, client services director for The Road Home, agrees. "I'd rather see them stay put because it's easier for their guys to get health care from us. But I understand the move, and it shouldn't disrupt anything."

Trost says the mission will partner with Volunteers of America to provide van service to the west-side campus. Design work also is under way to try to persuade UTA to run buses along a stretch of 900 South busy with heavy truck traffic.

"We're certainly open to hearing what they have to say," says UTA spokesman Chad Saley, adding that the decision will depend on ridership and resources. "If this met that criteria, then great."

Salt Lake City newcomer Johnny Scott, who is bunking at the mission while he looks for work, would welcome a bigger and newer building. "I don't think the distance from downtown would be that big of a deal," he says.

Besides the four new buildings -- to be built in phases -- the campus would include a swath of open space complete with basketball and volleyball courts, a track, horseshoes and a community garden.

Dormitory capacity would mushroom from 50 to 200, while room in the rehabilitation program would expand to 100, according to Chris Croswhite, a pastor and executive director at the mission.

"We are limited in how much room we have. We are limited in the age of the facility and the adequacy," Croswhite says. "We want to meet the needs of the addicted and the homeless and expand our services."

For years, Trost says, the mission has been saving money for the $20 million project -- $7.7 million of which is needed for phase one. Besides in-kind contributions, he says, cash has been pledged from private donors, law firms and a bank.

Trost says west-side community councils have seen the plan and voiced support.

Tribune photographer Steve Griffin contributed to this story.