OGDEN — Curious community members peered into the windows of the new Lantern House on Tuesday, attempting to listen to speakers who addressed a standing room only crowd.
"When I drove by, I thought it was a hotel — I came in for reservations, but they said they were already full," said Spencer Eccles, CEO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, who donated a matching $1 million grant for the creation of the facility.
The Lantern House is St. Anne's Center's large new homeless shelter, located on 33rd and Pacific in Ogden, and replaces the 1992 facility. The new building will become the main hub for the organization's day-to-day operations.
The new shelter is not only larger, it has been designed to better serve family clients.
In the older shelter, fathers and teen boys had to be separated from their mothers and younger siblings during the evening because there were few rooms designated for families staying at the shelter.
"I found St. Anne's number to call, and they told us to come down," said Jonnie Moore, a previously homeless father of three when he recalled his time with St. Anne's. "They were full, and didn't have anywhere for a single father with kids."
Now, the family wing located at the Lantern House is entirely separate from both the male and female dormitories.
The new shelter has also expanded its "Diversion" area, which will now allow a greater number of clients who are restricted from sleeping in the dorms — due to intoxication, substance abuse, or mental disability — a place to sleep and shower.
"We truly are excited that Lantern House is going to be able to offer so much more in the way of shelter, services and support for the many men, women and families who face the very tough challenges of poverty and homelessness in northern Utah," Eccles said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The new facility has two new in-house partnerships, according to executive director Jennifer Canter. The Midtown Clinic, which will be opening a medical and dental clinic within the building for all homeless people, and the Ogden Police Department, which will have a satellite police station within the shelter, will both provide services inside the Lantern House.
"I think this adds a fantastic opportunity for our clients to get help so much quicker and to be safe," Canter said about the newly announced partnerships.
The project of building the new shelter and transferring the organization a little more than a mile away from the original building has taken nearly six years and the contributions of several Utah-related entities.
"When private people give their money, religious organizations donate their money and time, government kicks in a little bit where they can, and we all work together, we create something amazing. That's what has happened here today," said Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
Cox, who has spent a night in a Salt Lake City homeless shelter as part of an effort to better understand the challenges homeless people face, also hopes that the shelter will become a place where individuals can spend their worst days.
"My hope is that as Utahns will always work together and that we will lift people up so their worse days aren't their last days, so that they will have hope, and know that there are better days ahead of them," he said.
In 2009, the city of Ogden donated the land that the shelter was built on. Following the property donation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated $1.5 million, and the remaining funds were obtained through fundraising by Kay and Allen Lipman.
Several other smaller donations had very unique stories behind them, such as a homeless man who gave a dollar bill that he had earned — not by panhandling — to Pamela Atkinson, a long-time homelessness advocate, for her to donate at the ceremony.
"When people give, they truly make a difference — you see, it's not just the fact that this is going to provide a shelter that makes a difference. That's a huge part of it, but a large part of it is our homeless friends realize that people care," said Atkinson.
"When people feel cared about, that's when their hope develops, that's when their self-esteem develops and to all of you who have given, you are an integral part of the team that's saving lives," she said.