Dozens of people celebrated the reopening of The Inn, a hospitality and service center for the homeless, with a sloppy Joe party Wednesday evening.
The Inn, closed for several months prior to relocation at the old Guadalupe Center, 346 W. 100 South, is an ecumenical project sponsored by 11 congregations representing a number of denominations in Salt Lake and Bountiful, according to Rev. Jerry Merrill, an Episcopal priest who serves as director of The Inn. Those congregations provide funding and make up a policy board to govern The Inn.The center first opened in a much smaller facility a year ago to provide homeless people with somewhere to go during the day when they had to leave the shelters. Over several months, the role of The Inn expanded to include job referrals and became a meeting place for a group called Homeless Organization for People Everywhere (HOPE).
While the "new, expanded" Inn will still fulfill those functions, Rev. Merrill said "there's room for tutors, counseling, job search programs, adult literacy classes, prevocational training and other needed programs."
In addition, The Inn has its own information and referral program, run "mostly by the homeless themselves, who are probably more knowledgeable about what's available and helpful to them," Rev. Merrill said. Volunteers will also take messages at the center's phone bank, which will be helpful for those seeking jobs.
The emphasis in The Inn's job search program is to "teach a number of principles used in a good job search effort," he said. "Probably less than 15 percent of employers advertise in want ads. So while you check them, we encourage people to also call the people who do the type of work you're interested in to see if they're taking applications.
"We built up a fair amount of temporary job placements (in the old building)," Rev. Merrill said, "and we lost some of that when we closed. Now we want to build it up again."
The Inn has three staff members besides Rev. Merrill. Richard Tuttle serves as community organizer (and helped create HOPE). Jean Gorny is trainer and director of volunteers. Keith De Marrias, homeless for years, is a staff member with the homeless VISTA program. Rev. Merrill said the center's goal is to have homeless individuals fill half of the staff positions. Their experience at The Inn, he said, should give them skills that will be helpful in a job search, as well.
Anyone interested in volunteering in one of The Inn's programs should call 539-8044.