People change. I am one of them. I hope someone will read this and give me a shot. —Jerry Armijo
MIDVALE — Sharing a "bedroom" with a dozen other families is far from ideal, but Jerry Armijo says he welcomes a change of location from downtown Salt Lake City.
"Downtown is chaos. There's a lot of drug activity. There's a lot of fighting, a lot of negativity. I don't want our kids to see that," Armijo said.
So Armijo, his wife, Regina, and daughters Alexandra Morales, 10, and Analyna Armijo, 7, were among several dozen families who moved into The Road Home's Community Winter Shelter in Midvale on Monday.
The shelter, which can house up to 300 people, was purchased by The Road Home in January. The building, originally a celery processing warehouse, has a new roof. Major renovations to the warehouse are scheduled to begin once the shelter closes in the spring, said Michelle Flynn, associate executive director of programs for The Road Home.
Armijo said his family plans to stay in the overflow shelter until other housing can be arranged. He works through a temporary agency to help support his family, but he has had a hard time finding a full-time position because he has had a felony conviction.
"People change. I am one of them. I hope someone will read this and give me a shot," he said.
Flynn said she expects the occupancy of the shelter to increase this week as the weather worsens. Seventeen families staying at the downtown shelter are close to moving into housing, so there was no point to relocating them to the Midvale facility, she said.
The Midvale shelter only houses families. A shelter for single men at the St. Vincent de Paul Center opened Oct. 15 and serves about 70 people per night, Flynn said.
While the Midvale shelter increases the nonprofit agency's ability to house needy families, opening day at the winter shelter steels The Road Home's collective resolve to place families in permanent housing as soon as possible, Flynn said. To that end, The Road Home's housing workers are also moving to the Midvale shelter to better assist clients.
"It's always overwhelming to see the sea of cots and little kids running around," Flynn said. "These families work hard to get out of here. They really do."
In the meantime, the shelter is assisted by local school districts that bus children from the shelter to the schools they have been attending.
A partner in the ongoing Housing First initiative, The Road Home now serves more clients in its array of housing than in temporary, emergency shelters, which is a positive trend, Flynn said.
"We think that's the way to go," she said.
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How to help
In-kind donations of blankets, towels, pillows, winter coats, diapers, infant formula and wipes are needed. New and gently used bedding, towels and coats are accepted.
Donations can be dropped off at the Salt Lake Community Shelter, 210 Rio Grande Ave., Salt Lake City, or the Community Winter Shelter, 529 W. 7300 South, Midvale.
To make a financial donation or learn more about The Road Home's programs, visit www.theroadhome.org.