Nicole Hiatt said it was 2014 when she heard about Project Homeless Connect. It was a cold, damp day in San Francisco, and she lived on the streets.
The line had seemed a mile long. But inside, where she was given eyeglasses and signed up for food stamps, “it was a sanctuary.”
“You weren‘t judged, and you were able to see the resources available to you,” said Hiatt, her eyes gleaming proudly.
Akerlow said it likely helped that homelessness is such a hot topic in Utah’s capital city. Three new shelters are expected to open by July 2019, and a state-led effort to reduce notorious lawlessness surrounding the nearby 210 S. Rio Grande St. shelter has generated frequent headlines.
The city budgeted $20,000 for the event, according to spokesman Matthew Rojas. Salt Lake County donated use of the Salt Palace, and other funds came from sponsors.
Volunteers also patrolled the neighborhood in vans and on foot. Most homeless people appeared to be grateful for the interest. Others were tougher sells. Near the western entrance, a volunteer pleaded with a bedraggled man who told her previous promises had come to nothing.
“This is different!” she said. “Will you listen to me? They will help you inside!”
Some were eager for help but had problems that were not so easily solved in one day. Hailey Bartlett, a 17-year-old from Sandy, sought legal support so she can win custody and child support for her 3-year-old daughter, and she spent much of the morning with a phone cradled to her ear, on hold.