BOUNTIFUL — The Interfaith Hospitality Network will route homeless families to Sandy and Bountiful for a 78-day period beginning in January to keep them away from the chaos of the 2002 Olympics.

"It's not that they are running the homeless out, it's just that they're going to be inconvenienced," said network organizer Debra McSwain, who also serves on the Bountiful Community Service Council. "We're trying to keep them on the outskirts during the Olympics."

The Interfaith Hospitality Network is a group of various local religious organizations that helps displaced families find jobs and housing. The local program has been around since the beginning of 1997 and now has 14 hosting churches and a waiting list.

Churches throughout the valley, including the churches in Bountiful and Sandy, normally take turns hosting the families overnight for two-week periods with some patrons then going to a day center on 800 South and 800 West in Salt Lake City during the day. But because driving will be difficult around downtown-area churches and services, the organization will move its day center to Bountiful's Grace Baptist Church and its overnight center to Hilltop United Methodist Church in White City, an unincorporated Salt Lake County area near Sandy, beginning Jan. 14.

The temporary move will also give Bountiful residents a taste of what is planned for their community. The network plans to establish a permanent center in either Kaysville or Bountiful next year, because the need for such services exists not only in Salt Lake City, says program director Vicki Neumann.

"It's not so much of a test run as it is sharing with the community what the future plan is," Neumann said. "For many individuals to come down into the part of town where the homeless are is a little scary. But when you bring it into their own church . . . they can put a face to homelessness."

The local program typically hosts about 20 people at a time, or about five families. The day center serves as a place where families can do laundry during the day, help children with homework, make phone calls and use a computer.

Bountiful City Manager Tom Hardy says the city has no problem with the day center program moving to Bountiful temporarily, or with the idea of a program being established in the city.

"Bountiful residents have a rich history of helping," he said. "It's not going to be anything we haven't done or anything we aren't willing to do."

The network is recruiting volunteers in the Bountiful area who would be able to tutor kids with homework and play with and read to younger children.

Utah's Interfaith Hospitality Network has a success rate higher than the national average, McSwain said. In Utah, 82 percent of those who have gone through the program do not become homeless again. The national rate is about 70 percent.

"Most people think of homelessness as being under the viaduct. This is just like your next-door neighbor fallen on hard times," McSwain said. "Most people are two paychecks away from being homeless."


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