February 26, 2016
Story by Lauren Gutierrez
“It gives them a little bit of self esteem and makes them think maybe I’m worth it after all,” said activist Pamela Atkinson alongside other community members and directors at the Hinckley Institute’s Pizza & Politics event on Feb. 11. She is a co-founder of the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund which seeks to provide the homeless population in Utah with shelter and daily necessities like clothing and food.
Atkinson, who works as an advisor for Governor Herbert, said they have made a lot of progress as they near the end of a 10 year plan to address homelessness. “These are my friends who were formerly homeless who are now off the street,” she explained, “It was a team that saved their lives. If you look at the acronym T.E.A.M. what it really means is together everyone achieves more.”
(Left to Right: Matt Minkevitch, Pamela Atkinson, Gwen White, Laura Michalski and Tamera Kohler.)
Utah residents can donate directly to the fund by listing code 02 on the voluntary contributions section of the income tax form. Tamera Kohler, Director of the State Community Services Office, said the donations go through the state, which disperses the funds to nonprofit organizations across Utah. There are no deductions for administrative fees and the money can be matched by government dollars as well.
Another panel member was Laura Michalski, Chief Executive Director of the Fourth Street Clinic, who said that case management was a crucial element of their mission because in many instances access to housing, food, clothes and medical services requires referrals or arrangement for transportation. Most importantly case managers provide people with someone who can listen and connect with them on a human level.
Matt Minkevitch, Executive Director of The Road Home, weighed in on the gravity of the homeless situation in Utah which is increasingly comprised of homeless families. He said there are hundreds of children entering shelters and low-income housing operations every day which is what makes supportive services that can check in on them even more important.
“My children were my main concern,” said Gwen White, a resident from the Kelly Benson Apartments. She told her story of domestic violence and the nights she slept in her car with her children during desperate times. She moved in with her son for some time before she finally received a call that she was eligible to apply for a place of her own. In her experience some of the donations and services needed the most are socks during the winter months and dentistry. Even little things that might be overlooked, like a comb or toothbrush, are greatly appreciated.
Just a few dollars donated to the fund can help provide vital services to homeless individuals and families that, like White, need a helping hand to get them on track to becoming independent again. White held up a key during the event and said it was her most prized possession.