SALT LAKE CITY — With snow and very cold temperatures dominating recent forecasts, several groups hoping to make a difference for the unsheltered accelerated plans for a mass distribution of coats on the streets of Salt Lake City.
Non-profit Unsheltered Utah, Utah Bearded Santas, Northern Realty and Faye’s Laundry and Dry Cleaning were among the groups and businesses involved in the collection, cleaning and distribution of more than 600 coats, which were given to those in need Thursday night.
“It’s at a critical mass,” said Unsheltered Utah chair Christine Stenquist. “Really, we’re in a position where coats and sleeping bags are the only options right now, so these come at a critical time, especially with this cold snap happening this week.”
The Unsheltered Utah organization began last year as a collaborative effort with friends that initially raised funds through social media, according to vice president Nate Kizerian.
Kizerian said he decided to get involved and help after experiences in his own life.
“I actually did have to leave my home to become a caregiver in 2017,” Kizerian said. “I knew that, one day, I was going to run into myself on the street — meaning that I was going to run into somebody that had the same circumstance that I did. I was unsheltered because I lost my late wife to cancer.”
The group now collects and distributes numerous items to the homeless, including clothing, shoes, blankets, backpacks and care packages.
Utah County-based Utah Crisis Food Response also assists the group in providing groceries as well as volunteers during distribution efforts, Kizerian said.
Stenquist and Kizerian said the organization is always looking for new donations and currently recommended coats, blankets and sleeping bags as opposed to tents, which the group said regularly get confiscated and discarded during cleanups and sweeps.
Though most shied from news coverage of the distribution, at least several of the unsheltered people expressed gratitude Thursday for the supplies — something that moves Stenquist.
“The thanks that people give when they get just a hygiene kit, to have soap,” explained a teary-eyed Stenquist, “there’s so much need out here that coats are an essential, just an essential during the winter months.”
Kizerian said he was committed to trying to make a difference, however he could.
“We just saw the need to be out there and we couldn’t walk away,” Kizerian said.