Pure religion: Helping homeless

It is something few have heard about — how the Church reaches out to those who are homeless, distressed and discouraged in Salt Lake City.

"People come here every day seeking answers," said David McQueen, whose job is to coordinate transient services at the Church's Welfare Square. "Often, they are homeless. Some seek medical, dental, or psychological help. Sometimes they just need a temporary step up so they can get on with their lives."

They come from all over the world; from every background, race, and religion. What they receive at Welfare Square is much more than a mere handout, however. Often, what they end up with is a new life.

Pam, a 29-year old woman, came into Welfare Square not long ago seeking help. She was fleeing a relationship in which her boyfriend had been abusing her six children. "I don't know what to do or where to go," she said.

Pam and her children were assigned to Linda Miller, one of the several Church-service missionaries at Welfare Square who are called to be mentors to those seeking help. With the aid of the Utah Housing Authority, Linda found a home with subsidized rent where Pam and her children could live. Next, she worked with Pam to find a new career — a clerical job where she could find stability and work towards becoming self-reliant. Today, thanks to the help she received from those at Welfare Square, the lives of Pam and her children are remarkably improved.

Homer Cook has served in executive positions all his life. Now, he and his volunteer staff work in Employment Resource Services, one-on-one with those who are unemployed.

"When these people come here," he said, "they often don't have confidence that they can compete. There are some who have been turned down so often, they feel it is impossible for them to ever become self-reliant."

What Brother Cook does is help them understand their true value. He teaches them how to interview, how to create effective resumes, the importance of integrity and hard work. "We work with people who are often on the last rung of their ladder," he said. "When you see the change it makes in their lives and how it lifts them emotionally and physically, it makes you feel like you're doing something significant and important." — Neil K. Newell — Welfare Services