ST. GEORGE — The new Dixie Care & Share facilities proposed to the St. George City Council on Feb. 13 will allow for more rooms for counseling with the homeless and disadvantaged and allow for more beds. In the meantime, Dixie Care & Share draws considerable community contribution to bring vital services to those in need.
St. George City Manager Gary Esplin said he believes the new facilities will be a positive addition to our community. “St. George is a caring community and we have people that need help,” Esplin said. “Having a place that is nicer and would accommodate their needs, all of us would like to see that.”
Dixie Care & Share is an organization that helps facilitate assistance for the poor, including shelter, food and counseling opportunities. It’s ability to do so depends on considerable support from individual, professional and business members of the community.
“I love knowing I make a difference,” Billie Atchson said. She has been working for Dixie Care & Share for almost six years, she said, and loves helping others.
In addition to providing beds and shelter, the organization has a food bank and pantry in St. George and in Hurricane as well as a mobile pantry to the Dixie Downs area of St. George. The Care & Share also runs the community soup kitchen in cooperation with the Grace Episcopal Church in St. George four nights a week.
Maxfield said he doesn’t want the Care & Share to be the sole provider of food for the homeless, but they want to help as much as possible. “Our goal is to facilitate independence, so we assist but we don’t take over,” he said.
There are conditions to those admitted and all who check in are registered into the facility’s database.
“There are people who won’t come to our shelter,” Maxfield said. “We drug test. We run drug dogs through here. We breathalyzer everyone. If they can’t pass a breathalyzer we turn them away because we’re not able to handle them.”
Shelter currently, and with new facility
Dixie Care & Share currently has 54 beds in three buildings.
“The men’s building right now is pretty much full every day,” Dixie Care & Share’s Executive Director Jae Maxfield said. “We make sure we can always handle the women and children. We are changing dynamics because we have so many more women in here. We have 40 percent of our population that is coming in are women, and they are young women.”
Despite having an overflow facility, the Care & Share does sometimes reach capacity. When that occurs, guys are the first to be turned away, Maxfield said, and they’re welcome to check back the next night.
The new facility will have 50 male beds, 40 female beds, 10 family units and 30 transitional housing units.
Dixie Care & Share’s food bank program is available only to people who are in poverty, Maxfield said. It provides nonperishable items such as canned foods with the goal of assisting a family with 30 meals per month. Those assisted are only allowed to frequent the food bank once monthly and they are asked to provide proof of residency and proof of income.
The pantry operations are “grocery rescue” operations, Maxfield said. They offer perishable items such as milk, yogurt, fruits and bread and are available to anyone in need without any qualification process. The Utah Food Bank travels to all the major grocery stores and brings them to the pantry. Volunteers then sort through the food to throw out the food that is not salvageable – fuzzy strawberries and black bananas were examples Maxfield gave – and the rest is made available to those who line up daily.
“Those people lining up aren’t lining up for breakfast, they’re lining up for the pantry,” Maxfield said of the observable line of people at the facility most mornings.
There is no screening required for the items in the pantry because the items will only last for another day or two, he said. The pantry efforts are cutting down on food waste in the area, and maximizing current resources in the community.
Counseling and help services
When someone enters the shelter an intake survey is taken to evaluate their state and needs, Maxfield said. Dixie Care & Share can then bring resources to help them including professionals from Southwest Behavioral Health, Department of Workforce Services, Vocational Rehab, and addiction services, counseling for housing, and case management for employment.
If an individual comes into the shelter with a mental disability, Southwest Behavior Health will evaluate them, help with medication and stabilization and then the shelter can move the individual towards employment or housing.
In the past six months, Dixie Care & Share has helped 180 people find jobs, Maxfield said. The jobs have not been high income, but have mostly been service-oriented positions with places such as restaurants and motels.
Another issue with many of the homeless is a criminal record. Almost 25 percent of our homeless have felonies, Maxfield said, which makes finding them housing and employment very difficult.
“When you grow up in an environment where your mom was a meth addict and your dad was in prison half the time or violent … they grow up with this view of the world that is totally different,” Maxfield said. “They are rough because that is what they had to do to survive and they are in survival mode.”
Social skills and basic life skills are often needed to help assimilate these people back into society. Because of this need, Dixie Care & Share sponsors a life skills meeting every Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the St. George branch of the Washington County Library. For those staying in the shelter the class is mandatory, and they discuss everything from interview skills to social skills to anger management.
A key part of the new facility will be conference rooms where counselors and others can meet with those in need. This will also allow Care & Share to bring other partner agencies into the shelter to assist in a nonthreatening manner. It can be intimidating for homeless to travel to other buildings and public places for training and resources, Maxfield said.
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