SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to volunteer instructor Bernie Hart, morning tai chi lessons at the Salt Lake City Main Library bring exercise and hope to the city's homeless.
“Blank stares” is what Hart says he was met with when he first talked about setting up the program.
“It was like they couldn’t understand the event and the ideas,” he said.
Five months ago, Hart went to the library, knowing that many of the city's homeless also went there in the mornings.
“We didn’t know what to expect," he said. "We started with an idea and nobody.”
But nobody soon turned into one, then a few, and now as many as 40 people show up Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings to practice tai chi as their morning workout.
For many, it allows them to simply have a time in their day where they get to focus on something other than being homeless.
Fred Davis came to Salt Lake City two years ago and is among the city's homeless population.
“It’s still kind of hard, you know, to get by day to day,” he said.
“We’re really exploring an idea about how motion and movement influences how we think about things,” Hart said about the program.
But the morning lessons offer Davis the chance to take his mind off his troubles — at least for a few minutes — and help him get a good exercise.
“It gets you moving and your body feels wonderful after you finish,” he said.
Of course, Hart knows that tai chi isn’t going to solve the city’s homeless problem — that’s going to take more than morning exercise — but he just wants people of feel better about themselves.
“They see changes and something happening,” he said of the class participants.
And for the homeless, change can lead to hope.