Utahns have provided a roof over the heads of homeless children and their parents as well as food and an education.
Now, the YMCA has started a program to help meet the physical education and recreational needs of these youngsters.Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, YMCA staff members arrange to transport homeless children from the shelter to the YMCA for open sports activities, "basically whatever they want to do," according to Kristine Farnsworth, public information officer for the YMCA. Activities include basketball, soccer, relays and other gym activities.
Friday evenings, the children are invited to participate during the
YMCA's open swim time. Saturday mornings the children can enjoy a half-hour of swimming lessons.
"Before this, we had been doing things (for homeless children) in a sort of hit-and-miss way with the community youth sports program," said Gary Gutierrez, aquatics specialist. "When the shelter opened, we thought we should really get into helping them.
"We had the facility available - it's our pool and our gym and we should be able to do what we want with it. The problem is transportation."
About 80 homeless children have taken part in the recreation programs, and 70 have taken swimming lessons, which Gutierrez said is critical.
"Salt Lake County has the highest drowning rate in the state and that's not a statistic to be proud of. The more children we teach to swim, the Better."