- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - From a home built at the turn of the 20th century, Crossroads Urban Center works on issues that have spanned the ages in Utah: hunger, affordable housing, health care access and justice.

The nonprofit organization, which traces its beginnings to the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, fills a unique role in Utah as a direct service provider and an advocacy organization.

“We know what issues people are facing because we talk to people every day,” executive director Glenn Bailey said.

The nonprofit organization is celebrating 50 years of operation in Utah this year. From a two-story red brick house built in 1903, Crossroads Urban Center operates an emergency food pantry and offers referral services. The building also houses its volunteer and administrative functions.

It also runs a thrift store at 1385 W. Indiana Ave. that provides low-cost and no-cost clothing and household items to people experiencing homelessness, youths and families with low incomes.

In the broader community, Crossroads Urban Center has a long history of advocating for disadvantaged people in the public forum, both as a stand-alone organization and as founder of the Anti-Hunger Action Coalition, Coalition of Religious Communities, and the Community Housing Advocacy Project.

“We try to do both, meet immediate needs and address root causes, and that’s unusual,” Bailey said.

Over its history, a number of other projects launched by Crossroads have spun off as independent nonprofit organizations, among them Utahns Against Hunger, Wasatch Community Gardens and the Disability Rights Action Committee.

Wasatch Community Gardens got its start as Wasatch Fish and Gardens, which launched the practice of community gardening on underutilized or vacant land in Salt Lake County.

Its “urban aquaculture” project, as Bailey describes it, did not survive. But for nearly a decade, it provided carp to refugees from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, who considered the fish a delicious and protein-rich staple.

In the day, Crossroads Urban Center’s parking lot was a makeshift carp farm, essentially a group of kiddie pools stocked with carp that were fed until they grew large enough for harvest. Kiddie pools were also set up in the backyards of people from the Mon community, primarily in the West Valley City, according to an article on Wasatch Gardens’ history.

At one point, Crossroads experimented with canning the carp at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Welfare Square.

“We only did it once because the Welfare Square folks said the smell was too much,” Bailey said.

Crossroads’ home has served many purposes over the years. Early on, it was a residence for women serving local Methodist parishes and their surrounding neighborhoods.

Later, it became a boarding home operated by Methodist Women for young women working or attending school in Salt Lake City. It functioned in that capacity until the mid-1960s and became Crossroads Urban Center’s home in 1966. The building is still owned by United Methodist Women and maintained by Crossroads Urban Center’s board of directors.

The center has had five directors over its 50-year history. The first, Jeff Fox, served in the Utah Legislature. He was completing his last term as a lawmaker when he was hired to lead the organization, Bailey said.

His successor, Steve Holbrook, was instrumental in raising $4 million to acquire the building at 210 S. Rio Grande, now the Road Home’s community homeless shelter. He, too, served in the Utah Legislature.

The center’s advocates and its coalitions are regular fixtures on Utah’s Capitol Hill, advocating for legislation that helps improve the lives of disadvantaged people, such as affordable housing and health care reform, and actively opposing policies they view as regressive, such as increasing the state’s food tax.

Crossroads Urban Center is primarily funded by fundraising, private donations from faith communities, individuals, businesses and family foundations. It also receives in-kind donations of food from the Utah Food Bank, faith groups and grocery rescue programs, and the donations of individuals and businesses. In 2015, nearly 29,000 people received food orders.

The nonprofit organization also provided a combined 3,800 holiday food boxes to needy families last year.

The center has a baby room, where it stores infant formula and diapers to give to needy families. Last year, 2,430 babies received one or both of those products.

Crossroads also provides transit vouchers, prescription vouchers and gas vouchers. Last year, it helped nearly 300 people avoid eviction from their homes by providing help with utility bills and rent.

While its primary mission is to help people, Crossroads also tries to keep a supply of pet food on hand. “We are happy to help people with that because people will feed their pets before they feed themselves,” Bailey said.

Crossroads receives little government funding other than a small Community Development Block Grant appropriated by Salt Lake City.

Diverse funding sources enable the organization to weather changes in the economy, and give it more freedom to advocate on behalf of people experiencing poverty and other disadvantages.

“It gives us a great deal of independence (in) what we work on, what we can say and who we can do it for,” Bailey said.

___

Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide