A Hub for Hope
Shannon Jones and Jeff Rose have a new outreach concept for the unsheltered in Salt Lake City
By Sarah Shebek
It will aggregate food, housing, health, transportation, and technology services to increase and improve access to basic resources for PEH.
The grant paid for a team of PEH—plus civic and academic collaborators—to plan the resourcehub, which will address nutritious food access and security for people experiencing housing insecurity.
It builds off Wasatch Community Gardens’ current Green Phoenix Farm model, which offers women facing homelessness a paid farm position while working toward stable housing and employment.
“The project is community designed. We’re going out and working with folks who are food insecure and housing insecure to find the gaps in the resources and how those would be met,” Jones said. “We’re getting our research team together, then our advisory board, to plan what this farm hub would look like. Then we’ll put this plan into a bigger proposal for Stage 2 funding.”
“Jeff does a lot of work with the unsheltered and has a good lay of the land in terms of where folks are living. Their needs are falling through the cracks.”
“The thing that’s really interesting about it is that it’s a prototypical way that the college can be involved in the community,” Rose said. “We’re trying to do a few different things here in one grant: supporting a program that already exists and trying to put it on steroids. In the process, the goal is to increase the outcomes associated with it.”
Rose said the Hub will be based around reciprocity. For PEH, that means they can grab a hot meal, shower, or connect with social services in exchange for volunteering. For agencies like The Road Home, it means bringing services to the women working at the farm in exchange for organic, free produce that goes back to the shelters.
“We think this is a model that can be replicated elsewhere and maybe expanded,” Rose said. “What if we doubled the size of this program? Could other mid-size cities out West do something similar?”
Jones and her team held several extensive community meetings to gather input from the advisory board and exchange ideas with the academic leads. That includes Paul Estabrooks, PhD, associate dean for community engagement, and Julie Lucero, PhD, associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“The biggest gap in needs we’ve found is housing availability,” Rose said. “But there’s a lot of optimism among the women we’re working with that they’ll find access to housing. They have the resources and relationships in place to achieve it.”
If the Stage 2 grant is funded, the team plans to start the 12-month IFARM research program this fall. Their research team is comprised of women from the Green Phoenix Farm who will conduct surveys and interviews in their community. Starting in 2024, the team will get seeds in the ground to get the Hub up and fully running.
“We want to build community and create programming that is self-sustainable and economically viable,” Jones said. “For example, community members can get access to healthy food but also contribute to growing it. It doesn’t feel like they’re getting charity— they’re part of this community that’s working together to meet their own needs.”