SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, the Utah Legislature and others gathered Monday to participate in the blessing of Utah's first volunteer homeless hospice as a sanctuary and refuge.
"It is truly exciting to see the INN Between become a reality," chairwoman and co-founder Deborah Thrope told an overflowing crowd. "It was exceedingly challenging and frustrating to find resources for the homeless."
The INN Between is the first volunteer hospice house of its kind in Utah and will provide services to people regardless of insurance or ability to pay. The hospice is located in the building that formerly housed the Guadalupe School, 340 S. Goshen St. (1040 West).
"I get to go to a lot of ribbon cuttings, but somehow at the big new buildings in Salt Lake, I don't get the kind of feeling I have now," Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said at the ceremony. "It is wonderful to see our community come together — not for profit, not for ego, not for new jobs, but simply because of our compassion. This is our community at its finest."
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, continued the theme of compassion in her remarks by stating that people who provide services to those who have nothing have the highest calling.
Following the ribbon cutting, religious leaders of several denominations gave remarks and prayers to bless both the physical building and all who enter — guests and volunteers alike.
In his remarks, Chaplain David Pascoe of Primary Children's Medical Center quoted Matthew 8:20: "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head," and expressed his hope that the INN Between would become a place where the homeless may rest in warmth.
Rabbi Frederick Wenger of Kol Ami promised that those who volunteer at this hospice sanctuary will feel God dwell with them, citing others who were blessed for building the original tabernacle and sanctuary in Exodus.
President Larry Love, the branch president of a Spanish-speaking congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described how volunteers will be bearing one another's burdens as they assist the patrons of the hospice. He then pronounced a blessing on the building, given in Spanish.
Rev. Harold Straughn of Unitarian Church prayed that the roof, frame, brick, beams and windows would remain sturdy for both guest and host in the hospice; also, asking that those who came to the building could "find it a house of joy, even at the end of life."
Rev. Lourduraj Gally, a pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church, expressed that God "showers his love and blessings to the sick and those who help them in any way," and then sprinkled the entrance of the hospice with holy water.
"It is one thing for us to ignore them, it's another to let them die on the streets alone," said the Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. "Dignity is something that is God given."
He then prayed that those who have lost their dignity given at birth may have it returned at the hospice.
Rev. Elias Koucos, assistant priest of the Holy Trinity Cathedral – Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, expressed how good it was to see a family of brothers and sisters from a variety of faiths and beliefs meet together for the cause. He continued his remarks by expressing the hope that the hospice would provide comfort and peace in addition to spiritual and emotional rest.
The INN Between hospice is scheduled to open its doors for patrons beginning June 1. Currently, more than 300 volunteers have signed up to work at the hospice. However, Thrope claims that while volunteer numbers are outstanding, the hospice is in dire need of financial donations — which may be made at the nonprofit's website, www.theinnbetweenslc.org/.