It won't be possible, of course, but all Utahns ought to visit the new shelter for the homeless when it opens for public viewing for three days after a noon dedication ceremony on Friday.
The new shelter, officially known as the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center, is located at 200 South and Rio Grande Street (440 West) in a brick former warehouse that has been renovated with $4 million in mostly private funds.For maximum effect, one should visit the old men's shelter a couple of blocks away just for the contrast.
It keeps people from freezing to death on the streets, but is a nightmare in other respects - cots crowded together in a large, dirty room; no place for belongings; nothing to do; nothing much in the way of help. Few people would want to spend five minutes there, let alone days and nights.
Seeing the old shelter is an experience that would gnaw at the conscience and disturb the memory of most comfortable Utahns. Fortunately, it is about to give way to something far more humane.
The new shelter - which will house 110 family members and 230 single men - is clean, comfortable, well-planned, and is designed to be more than just a dumping ground for the homeless, the helpless, the down-and-out. It's certainly no palace, no luxury hotel, but it offers amenities and resources that so-called street people badly need and that the rest of us take for granted.
The section for families offers small private rooms, with beds and furnishings donated from the Hotel Utah. There are showers and laundry facilities to enable people to be clean. There are day care centers, a school, a courtyard playground, and a communal kitchen where mothers can warm up milk for babies or snacks for other youngsters on a limited basis.
For the men in a vast dormitory, there is some space. There are individual metal lockers where belongings can locked up. Those metal cabinets, also from the Hotel Utah, are a small thing, but an enormous psychological boost for people who have had no safe place to keep meager belongings, who must carry everything everywhere. The cabinets offer a touch of human dignity.
There are phones, day rooms, private rooms for the ailing and handicapped. There is a Job Service office, a medical clinic, and offices for social workers - a system designed to lift people into some kind of new start, some kind of self-sufficiency.
The most impressive thing about the shelter is the obvious planning, thought, and care that has gone into the design and the operation. The community has come a long way in just a few years. All those involved - United Way, government and private agencies, churches, and countless individuals - deserve the highest praise for what they have achieved.
The shelter still needs funds. Utahns can be proud of what has been done so far and should give from the heart to carry on the work.