Advocate Optimistic Changes Coming For Homeless Services In Salt Lake City

Dec 25, 2018, 9:18 PM | Updated: 11:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Pamela Atkinson and about 100 of her friends served Christmas dinner Tuesday night for people who otherwise might not get a hot meal on Christmas Day. The advocate for the homeless is optimistic about substantial changes to come for services for the homeless in Salt Lake City this year.

Atkinson has served dinner for her homeless and low-income friends nearly 20 years, hosting through Catholic Community Services.

“It’s the 17th or 18th year,” she said. “I lost count.”

The warm meal meant a lot to nearly 1,000 people who arrived at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall. It wasn’t just any dinner, it was a steak dinner, with a baked potato and hot rolls, donated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and prepared at the Grand America Hotel.

“Having a steak dinner on Christmas Day makes many of our homeless and low income friends feel rather special,” said Atkinson. “Many are already telling me this is one of the best meals they’ve had all year.”

The guests agreed.

“It is amazing,” said Nate Davis, who recently found a new home after experiencing homelessness for seven years. “What they’re doing for people here is lifting their morale and boosting their spirits, which is huge on the street. They really just need some love.”

“I’ve been homeless for a year now,” said Jennifer Richards, who faces challenges this Christmas as she tries to find a home.

“It’s very emotional, like even now,” she said, trying to describe what she’s been going through. “I’m grateful for all of the men and women who have been here helping me.”

Charles Dahlquist was organizing food in the kitchen, setting it out for servers. He and his wife first served dinner when their five daughters were very young.

“When we first came, our girls on the way down said, ‘How come we’re going on Christmas, out of the home? It’s the time to play with the stuff you’ve gotten.’ As we left they said, ‘How come we haven’t been doing this before?'”

Today, they had two dozen family members with them. It’s become an annual family tradition.

When The Road Home shelter closes this summer, the community will shift homeless services to three resource centers. Atkinson says that’s not the right fit for several hundred of the homeless that have told her this.

“I just want one small room that I have a roof over my head and I feel safe. So we’re exploring single room occupancy and other alternative housing,” said Atkinson.

She’s hopeful that positive progress made in the past year will continue.

“But, no homeless person can be left behind with all of these changes,” she said.

After dinner, guests picked out brand new thermal long underwear, socks and other critical pieces of clothing to help them through the winter.

“We’ll have plenty to be able to give out, not only today, but in January, February and March,” said Atkinson. “It will help get us through the winter.”

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Advocate Optimistic Changes Coming For Homeless Services In Salt Lake City