This December, City Market shoppers may not see the Salvation Army bell-ringers to whom they are accustomed. Local Salvation Army coordinator Sara Melnicoff is stepping down to focus on her nonprofit, Moab Solutions and the Salvation Army will be looking to recruit new volunteers. At the same time, Melnicoff and Moab Solutions will be restarting the Emergency Needs Fund, a fund for urgent needs in the community.
Like the Salvation Army, the Emergency Needs Fund is available to help with such costs as emergency lodging, transportation and food.
“The Emergency Needs Fund will take requests for any assistance, for any urgent needs and then we’ll determine it on a case-by-case basis,” Melnicoff said. “Anyone can call asking for help. It has to be a real need and then I have to check with my committee and we’ll let them know.”
Melnicoff said the change is primarily due to the amount of time needed to submit Salvation Army paperwork — the Denver office has to approve every bill paid.
“I’m looking forward to more time doing Moab Solutions work and the street-level outreach work and be able to just pay a bill right away,” Melnicoff said.
Keeping the money in Moab will have another benefit, Melnicoff said. While 90 percent of Salvation Army donations stay in the community, 100 percent of the Emergency Needs Fund will go towards helping Moabites in need. The fund already has several thousand dollars in donations, Melnicoff said.
“[Melnicoff] has been volunteering with the Salvation Army for many, many years and we appreciate her so much,” said Danielle Maldonado, service extension director for the Intermountain Division of the Salvation Army. “The Salvation Army, with her help, has provided a lot of assistance with food, emergency lodging, transportation, medical, rent and utility assistance.”
Maldonado said the Salvation Army is looking to recruit a committee to run emergency services in Moab. Interested parties can contact Maldonado at 303-863-2194.
Moab can expect to see more homeless individuals in town as Operation Rio Grande pushed people out of Salt Lake City, Melnicoff said.
“We’ll probably start seeing people come through here for the next one or two years. So people should be alert to that and make sure to refer homeless people to one of the agencies,” she said.
Exactly which agency people in need should be referred to is “an open question,” said Moab Police Chief Jim Winder.
For now, Melnicoff said that people should contact Moab Solutions at 435-259-0910.
“The police department tends to be the clearinghouse because we [have a] 24-hours-a-day response and so for circumstances that are emergent or critical, so let’s say if it’s a life safety issue, someone who is acting out or acting unusual, that would be a phone call for us,” Winder said.
Winder said that the county is in the process of formulating a strategy for dealing with homelessness.
“They’ll show up at one provider one day, another provider another day and there’s not a lot of coordination between what services have and haven’t been provided or what are we doing to get this person’s situation resolved in the long term … it’s pretty similar to what’s going on in a lot of communities and that’s our main objective right now is to try to streamline that process,” Winder said.
Grand County Council member Mary McGann said that the county homelessness coordinating committee is on the case.
“The committee now is very active and has been reenergized,” McGann said.
With respect to the Emergency Needs Fund, “the more funds we have the more we can support and help our homeless in our community,” McGann said. “We are now working on developing a system to enable us to be more effective and that’s where we’re at and we’re having a workshop on [Oct. 11.]”
Winder said that while the strategy has yet to be finalized, Moab is doing well compared to other communities.
“Relationships here in Moab are much more congenial and easy to navigate than a lot of larger areas and the citizens here should be quite happy about that. Everybody here seems to be working on the same page,” Winder said.