In 1988, Chuck Rostkowski talked to some people about building a new homeless shelter for St. Anne's Center. More than four years later, after some $1.3 million in fund raising, St. Anne's opened its new doors last week.
"It's real nice. It's nicely designed. It's working very well," said Rostkowski.Rostkowski has been the director of St. Anne's for more than six years. The old St. Anne's was in an old Catholic school building. Lunch is still being served out of the old facility because a piece of kitchen equipment has yet to arrive at the new center. But the director said he expects the new kitchen will be open and serving meals by Thanksgiving.
A new homeless shelter was needed in Ogden because Rost-kowski said the numbers of homeless people are rising. He said the new homeless are in their mid-30s.
"Baby boomers are the homeless now," the director said. "They affect everything they touch, and right now it's homelessness."
So the new shelter provides beds for 75 men and 12 women. The center also has a family shelter. Since the new center opened, about 45 men have been staying there each night, and the women's facility is full. Four children are currently at the shelter.
Tammy Miller, 26, came to Ogden from Washington state about a week ago. She said she came to Ogden to try to start a new life because she has relatives in town who could help her. But her relatives had no room for her, so she and her 2-year-old son are staying at the shelter.
"It's pretty nice here," she said. "I'm hoping on the first (of the month) to get me a place to live and find me a job."
Miller said she hasn't worked for awhile because of illness, and she isn't sure what kind of job she could qualify for. So she expects to go on welfare.
"I don't like the idea of going on welfare, but there's nothing I can do right now," she said.
Rostkowski said women and families can spend up to 30 days at the shelter, where they can get help and advice from a social worker who works at the center. He also said a small classroom has been set aside in the center, and Ogden School District officials will soon implement literacy classes there along with helping people earn their high school diplomas.
"An awful lot of the people who come through here have real sad stories," said Rostkowski. "I'm not sure it's going to get any better. In fact, it's probably going to get a whole lot worse."
Rostkowski blames the economy and lack of jobs for unskilled people for the increase in homelessness. He said there is a steady trend in homelessness, pointing out that he serves about 10 percent more men each year than the previous one.
"The number of women and families has increased about 50 to 60 percent in the last year," he continued. "And that's kind of a scary trend."
The director said most of the people he sees looking for help have no job skills, dropped or flunked out of high school and ended up getting dead-end jobs. He said some people who stay at the shelter have jobs, but they only get paid minimum wage and work part time without benefits.
"I see this (employment) as a real major problem," said Rostkowski. "But all we can do is care for them. It's the mandate of the New Testament, serving the poor."