A man who is hungry doesn't differentiate between religions or cultures in his search for food, an LDS leader on Friday said as he pledged ongoing support to caring for Utah's poor and homeless citizens.
"If he's hungry, he ought to be fed," said President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Our interest is ongoing."President Monson and other dignitaries toured the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center, then visited the St. Vincent De Paul Center, operated by Catholic Community Services. The tour, conducted by Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis, included a visit to the shelter school, a look at floor plans for a proposed on-site women's shelter and ended at the Salt Lake Donated Dental Services Clinic in the St. Vincent De Paul Center.
The LDS Church donated $25,000 this month to help pay for materials and the salary of the dental service's coordinator. More than 65 local dentists provide their services free to help the homeless and indigent in Salt Lake County.
In December, the LDS Church donated $50,000 to help the shelter with operating costs during the winter months, when up to 450 people sought refuge from the cold each night.
"We are very happy about the progress on the dental clinic," President Monson said. "If we can't join together and pick up the tab for dental equipment and materials, then we're Scrooges. A person's whole attitude can change when people care."
President Monson said that the plans for the proposed on-site women's shelter particularly please him. The shelter, which will be located at the south end of the shelter building (an area recently vacated by Wells Fargo), includes extras like space for inhabitants to plant a garden or relax outside.
DePaulis said that planners of this shelter wanted to "humanize" the facility as much as possible. It would also expand capacity from 30 to 40 single women a night and allow the women access to the shelter's medical facility and dental clinic.
Single women are currently housed in an old and inadequate "bubble" building several blocks from the main shelter.
"The circumstances the women are in now are very dire," DePaulis said.
"We need to make sure that men and women have equal attention," President Monson said, adding that people in the community are "more prone" to think of homeless people as single men who come in on trains.
Although the proposed shelter for women is now vacant, it cannot be completed until funding for renovation is in place. Salt Lake City has pledged to pay half of the estimated $200,000 still necessary to complete the work. Salt Lake County has been asked for the other half but has not yet made a decision.