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Health, Science & Environment

Salt Lake’s Rescue Mission Delivers An Early Thanksgiving To City’s Homeless

A photo of a line of homeless people waiting to get food.
Jon Reed
/
KUER
The Rescue Mission of Salt Lake prepared about 1,200 Thanksgiving meals for people experiencing homelessness Tuesday. It’s been a tradition over 15 years in the making, though several pandemic-related changes marked this year’s event.

For the past 15 years, the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake has served an early Thanksgiving meal to Utah’s homeless and low-income families.

Executive Director Chris Croswhite said normally over 1,000 people would come to the mission and eat inside. There would be live music, haircuts, flu shots and 100 or more volunteers.

This year, however, they’ve had to make some changes. People experiencing homelessness or financial insecurity were able to grab a Thanksgiving meal to go, along with clothes and cleaning supplies. Volunteers also drove around and delivered items to others living in encampments throughout the city.

It was Michelle Ferraro’s first time attending the event.

Ferraro said a traumatic brain injury more than 20 years ago completely changed her life, causing her to lose her job and her family. She said she’s been luckier than most in line because she was able to get subsidized housing about two years ago, but it’s been hard finding a job.

“I'm looking right now, but I don't have a computer,” she said. “So that's really getting to be a hard thing.”

A photo of volunteers getting grab-and-go bags ready for homeless people.
Jon Reed
Volunteers cooked and packaged meals with smoked turkey and homemade pies. They also handed out winter coats, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Zach Chipman also came out for a meal. He said he’s still working on getting housing, and has been on a waiting list for over a year. In the meantime, he has been staying in the St. Vincent de Paul overflow shelter in downtown Salt Lake City.

And while the early Thanksgiving event is great, he said it’s been a tough year for people experiencing homeless. Shelters have limited space and there are few places in the city where people can shower and use the bathroom.

“With the virus, it screwed everything up,” Chipman said. “So it doesn't really matter. I mean, it is what it is. And you got to live with it.”

Given the sweeping economic hardship brought by the pandemic, Croswhite said he and other providers think homelessness will only increase over the next two years. But he said the mission has stayed open throughout the pandemic and will continue to provide resources for people in need.

“Hope begins with that meal,” he said. “Dignity begins with that meal. What we're trying to do is build trust and respect and let our homeless friends know that we care about them.”

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