LifeStart Village provides lift to homeless families in suburbia

Source: Salt Lake City Tribune / 

There is a leafy, well-kept subdivision in this Salt Lake Valley city that doesn’t stand out from other suburbs and to the casual passer-by wouldn’t be recognized as a place where homeless people put their lives and families back together.

But at LifeStart Village, 54 families are leading what look to be normal, everyday lives. There are no miscreants hanging about or other jarring sights and sounds that have become synonymous with The Road Home Shelter on Rio Grande Street in downtown Salt Lake City.

For the women and children who live at LifeStart Village, it’s an oasis from the nasty dust storm that is homelessness. It encompasses a multifaceted, hands-on program that has yielded a rate of success nearing 90 percent, said executive director Bonnie Peters.

Opened in 2003, LifeStart Village is part of the nonprofit Family Support Center, established in 1977, that also offers a free crisis nursery, day care and a host of other services, including counseling, education and an in-home parenting program.

The village stands in stark contrast to the machinations now grinding through Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County as advocates seek to build two new homeless shelters in the capital city that would house 250 to 300 people each in locations yet to be determined. The renderings of the proposed buildings looked institutional to some Salt Lake City Council members who saw them for the first time earlier this month. Some feared the facilities would stick out in a neighborhood setting and be unwelcome.

When LifeStart Village was proposed, many residents complained that it would run down the area, said Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini. The opposite happened, she explained. The low-profile village has had a positive influence on surrounding real estate.

Solace and healing • For Chelsea Hazel, 28, and her three children, LifeStart Village is a godsend. She is recovering from heroin addiction.

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