ST. GEORGE – Though it has been open for barely a month’s time, the SwitchPoint Community Resource Center in St. George has made a positive impact for many impoverished and homeless individuals, center staff told city officials Thursday.
SwitchPoint is a place where 17 different agencies benefiting the homeless and people in-need are collected under one roof. It supplies temporary housing, a food pantry, job training and placement, education, addiction recovery help, mental health aid, and more. A purpose of the center is to make homelessness a temporary affair and provide people with the skills and the means to help support themselves.
Matt Loo, the city’s community development director, said he expects SwitchPoint to have its official grand opening sometime around Oct. 15.
The temporary shelter portion of SwitchPoint opened Aug. 29 and maintains an average residency of 68 people per day, Carol Hollowell, the center’s executive director, reported to the St. George City Council. Additional services have become operational since the end of August as well.
In the last three weeks, SwitchPoint has helped 23 people find employment; nine people move into permanent housing; and reunited five people with their families.
“Just a few months ago this was all just a concept,” Mayor Jon Pike said. The city approved initial funding for the project that morphed into SwitchPoint in March.
Stories of those aided by SwitchPoint
Hollowell told the City Council about a veteran who had been experiencing major depression and had wandered the country aimlessly for the last two years. His wanderings brought him to the center where he encountered Hollowell. Learning he had family in the eastern United States, Hollowell called the man’s daughter. The veteran believed his daughter didn’t want to talk to him because he had been gone so long. The opposite was true, Hollowell said.
The daughter was crying on the phone, as she thought her missing father was dead.
As contact between family members was was re-established, staff at SwitchPoint put the veteran on a ride home to reunite with family directly.
Another example Hollowell gave of SwitchPoint’s impact was through the story of a man named Edger. She described him as having a low IQ and a learning disability, someone who would likely be “written off unemployable and worthless.”
Edger, who was homeless for five years, was employed at a fast food restaurant in Hurricane. He regularly road a bicycle to work from out of town, often leaving early in the morning so he wouldn’t be late.
With money earned from his job, Edger wanted to personally deliver it to members of his family in Las Vegas. Arrangements were made and he traveled to the city, but was unable to return due to part of Interstate 15 being destroyed by flooding during the Sept. 8 storm. He was stuck in Las Vegas for four days before being able to return to St. George with SwitchPoint’s help. Unfortunately, he had lost his job in the mean time.
Using its connections with Zion Lodge in Springdale, Hollowell said SwitchPoint was able to help get Edger a job there, along with housing. He started work at the lodge Tuesday.
Breakdown of funding and volunteer hours
As of Thursday, SwitchPoint has received $2,407,000 in funding. Over half of that comes from federal grants at $1.9 million. Private donations account for $232,000, with state funds supplying $6,800, Hollowell said.
Funds from a federal block grant to the City of St. George were used earlier this year to purchase the 16,000-square-foot facility that became SwitchPoint for $1.5 million. Money from the block grants is specifically marked for projects meant to benefit the community in some fashion.
Funds from federal grants are expected to be used over a period of three years, Hollowell said, and added there were additional grants from the state that could be applied for as well.
“There are millions of dollars that can be used in the county,” she said.
The center’s largest expenditure so far has been related to the interior remodeling of SwitchPoint’s facility, which costs estimated $84,000. Other notable costs included the acquisition of bunk beds and freezers.
Hollowell also told the City Council that volunteers have donated an estimated 5,900 hours to the center’s remodel. The dollar value of donated services and hours so far is estimated at around $34,600.
“I couldn’t have done it without the volunteer hours,” Hollowell said.
There are currently seven Eagle Scout projects involved in helping complete the remodel of SwitchPoint as well, Hollowell said.
Call remains for volunteers, donations
The call for volunteers and donations remains constant.
People will be able to volunteer at SwitchPoint online once the website is launched sometime next week, Hollowell said. Until then, people can call 435-627-4663 for information on volunteer opportunities.
As for supply donations, Hollowell said Friday, the center currently needs feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, baby wipes, and spices like salt and pepper for food.
The SwitchPoint Community Resource Center is located at 948 North 1300 West in St. George.
Ed. note: Telephone number for SwitchPoint is 435-627-4663. Correction made Sept. 28, 2014.
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