SALT LAKE CITY — More than 200 supporters of a homeless hospice that has divided residents near its new home in Sugar House gathered Sunday afternoon over bingo, beer and bratwurst, raising more than $7,000 for the center.
The friendly competitors packed Salt Lake City's Beer Bar during the fundraiser, which doubled as a chance for proponents to tackle what say are unfounded concerns about the Inn Between, a first-in-the-nation home for sick and dying patients who otherwise have no place to go.
"They exist and they live around us. So we need to examine why someone wouldn't want to help someone who needs a home," said Carole Barnard, a co-owner of the bar and a founder of the local YIMBY (or Yes in My Backyard) Group pushing for acceptance of the center.
In June, the Inn Between moved from the city's west side, where it had 16 clients, to its new location at 1216 E. 1300 South, a former rehabilitation center with the capacity to treat 50. Some who live nearby have voiced concerns about safety and said such a facility does not belong in a residential neighborhood.
But in order to secure a place in the home, a person must have a qualifying medical condition and agree not to use drugs, while also adhering to house rules that forbid stealing and urge respect, said Kim Correa, the Inn Between's executive director. If patients violate those rules, they may face eviction.
Her facility has received one complaint since it moved, Correa said — about cardboard boxes that were left outside a recycling bin before a dumpster was brought in. Still, neighbors of the facility have at times harassed those who live there, leading Inn Between residents to make plans to leave because they previously felt safer camping.
"That's a horrible outcome," Correa said outside the bar on Sunday.
Inside, between sips of beer and shouts declaring victory in the game, several said they felt the hospice plays an important role in Utah's capital city.
They include James Cordova, a high school teacher who lives about 10 blocks from the center.
"Everyone wants to solve the homelessness problem, but nobody wants the homeless around them. It's a very narrow view of the world," he said. "We're in a big city with really high-priced real estate and high rent. You've got to find a place for people to live."
The event Sunday raised an initial $7,000 from the sale of items like the $5 bingo cards, $20 yard signs that read "We support the Inn Between," and donations. Beer Bar's owners also pledged to donate 10 percent of food and drink sales during the game, but did not immediately have a tally.
The bar's monthly charity bingo game saw one of its highest turnouts on Sunday, with players that included recent college graduates and others with graying hair. Winners took home prizes such as signed Real Salt Lake T-shirts, donated ski passes and Eccles Theater tickets.
No Inn Between residents attended the fundraiser Sunday, in large part because it is a sober-living center. But many supporters signed their names or wrote short notes on an expansive poster board outside the bar that would later be delivered to the hospice patients.
Jason Brentner, who was homeless for about two years but now has his own place in Salt Lake City, came to the bar Sunday in a show of solidarity.
Brentner has never called the Inn Between home, he said, but he supports all types of agencies that seek to help those living on the street. Several service providers helped him get back on his feet and move into his current home near West High School, he said.
"When you attack this one, you're attacking all of them," he said of the hospice. Its sick and dying residents have long battled multiple layers of personal issues, and "now they're getting kicked in the face by the community," he said.1 comment on this story
For Barnard, one of the bar's owners, the facility's move to her neighborhood has provided an opportunity review important topics with her 13-year-old son, she said. Their discussions range from mental illness to mortality and participating in local government.
"I see the Inn Between as adding to my children's experience," she said.
The money raised Sunday will got toward operating costs for the home, Correa said, which amount to $1.8 million to run each year.
Correction: An earlier version mistakenly said YIMBY stands for Yes in My Neighborhood. The acronym actually stands for Yes in My Backyard.