Several years ago a good friend told me that I had to go see the building that The Road Home used for emergency shelter for families during the winter months. I went, and was horrified at what I saw. The building was built in the 1940’s as a celery warehouse. It looked like it would crumble at any time. At least homeless families could go and find a roof over their heads. Of course, the roof leaked (badly) anytime there was any rain or snow.
Along with many others, we were able to start a process where we bought that old dilapidated building (more importantly, we bought the building because there was a conditional use permit attached to it so a building at that location could be used to shelter the homeless). My parents donated some money to patch the roof. We decided that the only feasible long-term plan was to tear down the old building and replace it with a new building. Along with other very generous donors, my parents contributed again to the construction project.
What stands in Midvale today is a beautiful, strong building where families across the valley can find a measure of peace and refuge during a dark period of their lives. It is a temporary stopping place for them along their road back home. The Utah legistlature worked with Midvale city so that the shelter can now operate during the entire year. Additional donors have stepped up to fund the year-around operations.
“Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
My role was very small and relatively insignificant (let’s be honest, finance usually is) especially relative to the generous donors and the terrific work from the skilled architects, builders, and craftsman who worked on the project. Their work is only matched by the wonderful work done by The Road Home staff everyday. However, as I drive by the new building, I feel a certain sense of pride that I was able to help, in my own small way, make it a reality. The joy of looking at a tangible result of the collective team effort is not common in my profession. That’s why, for me, the Midvale family shelter stands as my most significant, and best, professional accomplishment.
I was thinking about this yesterday during our board meeting for The Road Home. In the materials provided to us, I noticed that the local politicians are using the Midvale building as evidence of their progress in the fight against homelessness. I then saw the following statistics on families seeking emergency shelter at The Road Home over the last year:
- 764 families (including 1,511 children) sought emergency shelter at The Road Home over the last year (that’s over 2 per day, every day)
- 9% is the increase in the number of families from the same period in the previous year
- 317% is the increase in the number of families seeking emergency shelter from 10 years ago
In addition to families, The Road Home serves single men and single women facing homelessness. I am greatly concerned with the rapidly growing number of homeless single women – it is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Last year, The Road Home provided emergency shelter to 1,445 single women. The trend is troubling and distressing. However, last year, there were more children in need of emergency shelter than single women. Kids. Regardless of the reasons single men and single women are homeless, can we agree that kids are innocent in this case and are homeless through no fault of their own?
As I think about those kids, my heart is full of gratitude for The Road Home, the talented staff, and others throughout our community who serve them. As I think about those kids, I’m grateful for all those who worked to build the wonderful shelter in Midvale. As I think about those kids, my small role remains my most significant professional accomplishment.