clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Gov. Herbert urges contributions to homeless trust fund via state income tax check-off

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a panel at the Fourth Street Clinic in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 6, 2014. At right is Pamela Atkinson. Following a tour of homeless services provider Volunteers of America — Utah's adult detoxification center Thursday
Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a panel at the Fourth Street Clinic in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 6, 2014. At right is Pamela Atkinson. Following a tour of homeless services provider Volunteers of America — Utah's adult detoxification center Thursday, Herbert encouraged Utahns to contribute to the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund via a state income tax check-off.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Volunteers of America — Utah's adult detoxification center is a place where life do-overs can begin.

"We give them a safe place to be and to rest," said center director Sue Ativalu, while offering a tour to Gov. Gary Herbert Thursday afternoon.

Once clients' conditions are stable, Volunteers of America's addiction programs provide support and structure as clients start to work on substance abuse and other issues that are an impediment to their well-being, Ativalu said.

"They have one of the toughest jobs around," said longtime homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson, who accompanied the governor on the tour.

Herbert, who met with reporters at the conclusion of the tour, encouraged Utahns to contribute to the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund via a state income tax check-off. The fund helps support a wide array of services for homeless people, including basic needs such as food and emergency shelter, health care, behavioral health services, and permanent supportive housing.

"There's no limit on how much you can give. At least give $2. Everyone can give $2," the governor said.

Annual contributions to fund, established by the Utah Legislature in the late 1980s, have ranged from a high of $300,000 in 1990 to $48,413 in 2014, according to Utah Tax Commission records.

Herbert said Utahns are known nationwide for their high rates of charitable giving and voluntarism.

"People have to pick and choose what they're going to do with their finite funds. With chronic homelessness, we have an opportunity to turn people's lives around, get them off the street and get them into housing, get them off of drugs and alcohol, and train them to become employed and back in society in a productive way," he said.

"This is a great cause, and anybody can give two bucks. So it doesn't have to be a lot. If all of us give $2, we can raise significant amounts of money to help chronic homelessness."

The governor met and chatted with a number of Volunteers of America clients, including Anthony Worthington, who is living at the center. Worthington said he was completing training as a pharmacy technician and would soon perform an externship at Fourth Street Clinic's pharmacy.

Worthington told Herbert he plans to return to college to earn an associate degree to further his employment options.

"The dignity of work is real. We want to help people," Herbert said.

The visit was also an opportunity for the governor to advocate on behalf of his Healthy Utah plan, an alternative to full Medicaid expansion that other states have adopted under the Affordable Care Act.

Many people who seek help at the detox center are uninsured, said Volunteers of America — Utah President and CEO Kathy Bray.

"These are some of the people for whom it would be a huge benefit," Bray said.

"Healthy Utah, it's part of what we're trying to do," the governor said.

As Herbert toured the facility, state lawmakers were mulling whether to conduct a joint caucus between House and Senate Republicans next week to work out a Medicaid expansion plan.

Republican lawmakers and Herbert remain divided how to provide medical coverage to the poorest Utahns.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com