In Utah's largest cities, the number of homeless people is growing at a rate of 25 percent each year. Of those homeless the fastest growing segment by far is single women and children.
In Utah, as in the rest of the nation, the face of poverty is changing.The closing of the Junior League Thrift Shop after nearly 20 years is a reflection of that change. President of the Junior League of Salt Lake City, Julie Barrett, explained the reason for the closure. "From the proceeds of the shop, from the surveys we took of the customers, we decided we just weren't reaching the clientele we wanted to serve," she said.
"For one thing, our location (at 952 E. Ninth South) is no longer central. But it seems that thrift stores throughout the valley are struggling. Deseret Industries does a huge business; there are lots of factory outlets; there are lots of other places where people can buy clothing cheaply.
"It's not that needy people weren't coming in, it's just that we assessed the project and decided we weren't serving enough of them. We can serve them better another way."
The League still has 2 more years left on the shop's lease and, unless the building is sold, the volunteers are planning to hold quarterly rummage sales there.
League members finished cleaning out the thrift shop last week.
In choosing another community project, Barrett said, the Junior League was "not just looking for a way to contribute financially but for a way for volunteers to contribute, too." The Junior League is different from other charities, she said, in that it trains volunteers.
After Barbara Zimonja studied different ways the League could help the needy in the Salt Lake area, League officers chose the new homeless shelter as a worthy place to invest money and volunteer hours.
The League will be giving a total of $40,000 to the shelter - a $20,000 check and a $20,000 van to be used to drive the people from the shelter to various job sites.
Linda Weitzman is chairwoman of the League's committee on homeless. "We want to jump right in with both feet on this project," she said. "Because the shelter will house everything - not just be a place where homeless people go for the night and then have to leave by 7 a.m. - it's unique."
Patrick Pullen of Traveler's Aid will oversee the volunteers at the homeless shelter. Weitzman expects volunteers will work directly with families in the shelter. "We'll be developing resumes, helping them get their checks, getting kids into school, helping them get medical care, giving them moral support - just helping them get back into the mainstream of society."
When he learned of the League's plans, Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis said, "The gift of $20,000 as well as the van to transport people for job interviews and counseling is a tremendous help toward our efforts to shelter the homeless. It's also important that these women are willing to volunteer their time and energy in order to see that the homeless get the attention and guidance they need.
"Their contribution is a significant one."
Barrett mentioned the following women who have worked and will be working for the needy of Salt Lake:
The director of the thrift shop is Pat Johnson. Past directors are Mildred Evans, Marian Ingham, Pat Peterson, Betty Ross, Dari Scott, Daphne Williams, Tracy Fielden, Sue Hess and Mary Jane Woods. Noreen Richardson was the thrift shop manager.
Shauna Warren, Diane Barlow, Kathy Anderson, Kate Buck, Mary Clark, Karren Hammer, Mary Hancey, Sharon Johnson, Barbara Lehnhof, Connie Love, Roth Loew, Ann Mackin, Lisette May, Kellie Schultz, Shauna Waters, Patty Washburn, Pam Westin and Karen Williamson are currently on the thrift shop committee.
Those who will be volunteering in the homeless shelter next year include Keri Burgess, Helen Bero, Marcie Bero, Kathy Clark, Gail Richards, Vicki Lyngle, Vivian Perry, Kathleen Gilman, Liz Hofman and Becky Farr.