Refugees planting new roots in Utah


War. Persecution. Death. Three things that many people in other countries across the world have to face on a daily basis. They go through life living in their homeland in fear. They’re left with two options: Stay in the country and risk death, or flee for survival. Many choose to stay, but many choose to become refugees.

Aden Batar, director of immigration and refugee resettlement for Catholic Community Services and a Somali refugee himself, said, “Becoming a refugee is the most difficult process a human being can go through. When you’re in your country, you either face the hard condition of leaving, or you die. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but when you don’t have a choice, you just want a new place to survive.”

According to a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert included in the Utah Refugee Services Office 2016 report, 1,200 refugees have been resettled in Utah annually by the CCS and International Rescue Committee.

The refugees who are resettled in Utah can choose from different programs to help them adapt to a new culture. One option is the New Roots Program, organized and managed by the IRC.

The New Roots program has the moto: “The food is local. The story is global.” Its purpose, according to the website, is to “enable refugees to celebrate their heritage and nourish themselves and their neighbors by planting strong roots – literally – in their new communities.”

The program consists of three parts: Community Gardening, Micro-Training Farm Program and the Sunnyvale Farmers Market.

Community Gardening Program

This program is designed to help the emotional well-being of the refugees as they try to adjust to a new country, culture and way of life.

Central Park 1. Photo credit New Roots SLC

In this program, plots of land (approximately 14 feet by 20 feet for 100 total square feet) are reserved for local refugees and their families throughout the Salt Lake community to grow crops from their home country and to come together as a community. Alex Haas, community garden program coordinator, said it is their opportunity to not only work, but also to provide for their family while connecting with others who may come from the same circumstance. There are 15 different gardens throughout the valley that refugees have access to.

Also within this program, Haas said, is the opportunity to meet as a group to develop skills and become accustomed to the new society they are in. Within these adjustment groups refugees can discuss their feelings, learn skills such as how to deal with anger, stress, depression and ultimately become self-sustained as they build a new home.

“The purpose of our community gardening program and adjustment groups is to help refugees become self-sustaining moving forward,” Haas said.

He also said in a phone interview that the gardens are a way to remind refugees of home and that they give them “a sense of comfort, while they enjoy cultural foods, and while they build a community of wellness.”

Micro-Training Farm Program

The next step in the New Roots program is the farming aspect. After resettled refugees have participated in the community gardens for a year, they have an opportunity to work on larger plots of lands at the Redwood Road Micro-Training Farm, located at 3060 S. Lester St. in West Valley City, to continue their farming.

Local refugee farming at the Redwood Farm. Photo credit New Roots SLC

Jordan Bryant, manager of the IRC’s New Roots program, said in a phone interview that the farm is maintained by generous grants and donations. The farmers pay different amounts for seeds and plants from their heritage, and tools to grow them to bring their home to Utah.

Currently, Bryant said, there are about 33 farmers who are there on a constant basis. These farmers, each of whom were once strangers, develop a community with one another as they work together to grow and sell their crops at local farmer’s market.

Although it is not the main source of income for their families, the refugees rely on the farming as a source of income for their families. At the same time, they continue to develop relationships and friendships with the other refugees around them.

“It’s more than just a job,” Bryant said. “It’s that they gain access to their home and people to socialize with.”

Sunnyvale Farmers Market

Local refugees buying produce at the Sunnyvale Farmers Market. Photo credit New Roots SLC

The Sunnyvale Farmers Market, located at 4013 S. 700 West in Salt Lake City, gives the refugee farmers the opportunity to provide for their family by taking the food they grow and selling it.  It is also an opportunity to bring food from cultures around the world to the refugee community.

“The farmers market is a great opportunity for income,” Bryant said. “Although it’s not their main source of income, for some it does provide a substantial amount for their family. It also is a community benefit by providing food from the countries of the refugees that are in the community.”

Escaping persecution is a long journey. But after choosing to leave their home to survive, the New Roots program has given refugees the opportuntiy to bring a piece of their culture to Utah.


Beyond mental health: welcoming refugees to Utah

Story and photos by ALAYNIA WINTER


That was the resounding answer from the three refugee panelists who spoke on Sept. 23, 2017, following a documentary movie screening held at The Leonardo museum in Salt Lake City. Each was asked the question: “What were the most difficult aspects of transitioning to living in Utah?”

Everything is different. The weather. The food. The language. The culture and customs. The ethnicity.

Visitor information is posted on the front door of the IRC located at 221 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City.

One of the panelists, Kamal Bewar, came to the U.S. as a refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan during the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War at 22 years old. Since then he has made Utah his home.

“I have been fortunate to have had people who made a difference and made me feel welcome. It has been the individuals who have made the difference in my life,” said Bewar during the event.

He is an example of a political refugee who has successfully created a new life after arriving with close to nothing. Bewar graduated with a Ph.D. from Argosy University in higher educational leadership. He now has a flourishing career working at Salt Lake Community College. He also is president of the Kurdish Community of Utah.

So, what happens when refugees arrive in Utah? First, they are welcomed by International Rescue Committee or another resettlement organization. After they have food and shelter and immediate safety, they are given English classes and tasked with adapting to the new environment.

What is the western answer to this often traumatic experience? IRC, Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and many other organizations offer therapy, medication and mental health programs. These programs are beneficial. However, the clinical concept of mental health may be foreign to some New Americans.

Hannah Fox, who was an intern at IRC before accepting a position as a social worker with DCFS said a problem many healthcare workers, social workers and others are seeing, is a systemic disconnect in the way we, as Americans, understand other cultures — and vice versa.

The IRC is nestled between The Rose Establishment and the historic W. S. Henderson Building.

“Our programs take mental health from a very western perspective,” Fox said, “versus where many of them [refugees] come from, they likely do not. So, while we might diagnose and medicate, they might believe in a spiritual or traditional folk remedy.” Visibly exasperated, Fox added, “So when they go to health care workers, and they give them a western experience of mental health care, it really f**** with them. It discourages them from trying again.”

What is found to be actually helpful, said Fatima Dirie, refugee coordinator for the University of Utah, is making a community. Once the programs are over, it’s the relationships and friendships made that create lasting change and true integration.

“As a community, we are not there yet,” Dirie said. “To truly feel welcomed you have to understand each other.”

Fox added, “With refugees that is their ‘therapy.’ It’s home and it’s talking about their culture. It’s sharing their experiences on their terms — not just some white person who has a degree behind a desk.”

Utahns can help make people feel welcome by saying hello, simply smiling, or inviting someone over for dinner. If interested, sign up for a Family Mentor Program, or complete a volunteer orientation at IRC.

Fostering meaningful relationships is what truly matters.


Community remains in the heart of Salt Lake City refugees

Story and photo by HAYDEN S. MITCHELL

All over the world refugees are fleeing their homes from violence, oppression and fear. These families are all looking for a new place to live where they can feel safe. In 2016, Utah became home to a little over 1,200 refugees from multiple countries: Iraq, Iran, the Congo, Somalia and Sudan. The New Americans are experiencing the shock and awe of a new country and culture, places that are vastly different than anything they had ever seen before, according to a PBS story.

When first coming to Utah, refugees have a variety of feelings and emotions ranging from exhilaration to fear. Two individuals, Aden Batar and Romeil Analjok, who have resettled in Utah, discussed how similar their experiences were. They were introduced to a different language, new environments, foreign foods and smells. Add to that, they said the residents of Salt Lake City dressed and acted differently than they had seen before in their home countries. This can create an overwhelming burden for any refugee.


Romeil Analjok, holding a trophy his daughter won playing basketball. Sports helped the family feel like a part of the community.

“It’s America man, of course it is going to be crazy. I did not know what to expect when my family first came here,” said Romeil Analjok, a refugee from Sudan, who created a new home for himself and his family in Utah in 2004. “Language was the biggest problem along with not knowing anybody … so I enrolled in school hoping to learn English and meet new people.”

While at school, Analjok met a couple of people whom he remains friends with today. He was grateful that they interacted with him during his first few days in class. He did not know how they would talk to him or act around him, but they treated him like everyone else, with respect. Analjok appreciated how quickly he made friends. It made the transition from Sudan to Utah easy and encouraged him that he could create a home for his family and be a part of a community once again.

“Romiel’s story is common for many [who are] moving their families,” said Francis Mannion, a priest who has seen an increase in refugee parishioners within his parish. They need somewhere to start.

For this reason, there are organizations like the International Rescue Committee or Catholic Community Services that will help new arrivals. These groups are in place to assist with the transition and make an adjustment easier for refugees coming to the United States.

In addition to established organizations, becoming part of an open and caring community is vital to helping families transition into a new community. Community allows refugees to make new friends, participate in all sorts of activities, or even worship together. Mannion made it clear that faith is not the predominant force that makes it easier for those going through the refugee process — it is community. A community can hold people up when they struggle the most.

“Every week in Sudan, we gathered with our friends and family, just celebrating everything good we had in life,” Analjok said. “I was happy to be a part of something every week … it gave me something to look forward to.”

Analjok said he felt out of sorts until he found a stable, welcoming community. He treasures it. In his community were fellow refugees from the Sudan who generously donated their time to helping him find friends and a new church, Saint Patrick’s, located at 1058 W. 400 South in Salt Lake City. Becoming involved with this church allowed Analjok some networking in the business world, eventually leading to a new job opportunity.

He said finding a new community can be a lifesaver for refugees. Without this connection, families and individuals can sometimes feel like they are on their own. Typically the countries that these refugees are coming from have a strong sense of community. They must rely on each other significantly to survive, eat and exist. This is why it can be such a challenge for refugees in America because it is solely their responsibility to provide for themselves and their families.

“Having a strong, loyal community around you will always make everything easier in life,” said Mannion, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul. “As refugee families come to church through the years, you can see the change happen. They start off nervous and still, and gradually became an active member of the community.”

Aden Batar, immigration and refugee resettlement director with Catholic Community Services, said refugees can have a hard time adjusting because they are coming from a life we have very little knowledge of. Life in countries like Iran, Sudan and Somalia is not easy. Batar, a refugee from Somalia who now helps other refugees in the resettlement process, said it is a real struggle every day for people living there to provide for their families and keep them safe. He said families are forced to flee because they are being oppressed or they fear potential threat and violence. Batar added that most people never anticipate leaving their home and are not prepared when it happens.

Such disruption can negatively impact people and even cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in many individuals, Batar said.

Analjok said, “When we came to Utah we were welcomed by a lot of refugees who came here before us.”  He reiterated the importance of community to his family’s resettlement. “They made me very comfortable and treated me well. It was also nice to see them all doing well,” he said. “It gave me hope for me and my family.”

Homelessness does not mean hopelessness

Story and photos by SHANNON O’CONNOR

From an outsider’s point of view, a homeless person on the side of the road may look intimidating or unapproachable.

“I usually don’t pull over or stop to donate money because I feel like they will waste the money on drugs,” said Sadie Swenson, a Westminster College student. Swenson’s reasoning is a common opinion, but that isn’t always the case.

All homeless people don’t have the same story. They come from different backgrounds and are on the streets for various reasons.


Francis Reeding standing on the corner of 400 S. 600 East in Salt Lake City.

Francis Reeding, 65, stands on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City for about six hours a day,  hoping to get enough gas money to go home to California. He has been living out of his car for three months.

Reeding fought in the Vietnam War starting in 1968. When he got home from the war, in 1970, he experienced hearing loss and suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Later, Reeding went to the University of Utah in 1976 as a math major. But since then he has struggled to keep a job. Now he feels hopeless and apathetic to get his life back on track.

“It’s embarrassing standing out here holding this dang sign,” Reeding said.

Although it is common to see people holding up a cardboard sign, it does not mean they are all the same. The homeless need a helping hand and The Road Home, located at 210 S. Rio Grande St., can get them off the streets and into housing.

The Road Home is the biggest homeless shelter in Utah and is always ready to help men, women, children and families.


The front of the Road Home located at 210 S. Rio Grande St. in Salt Lake City.

“Everyday I see people that I think are beyond hopeless and I see them make it and overcome homelessness,” said Celeste Eggert, Road Home development director.

Eggert has been with the agency for 17 years and has been the development director for 12 years. She fell in love with the shelter because of the clients’ strength and courage and she loves the mission of the Road Home.

The mission is to educate people about shelter and housing and to “get people out of homelessness and back into the community,” Eggert said.

How does this get accomplished? By the effectiveness and success of their programs: Permanent Supportive Housing, Rapid Rehousing and the emergency shelter.

“Collaboration is huge, many of the programs we’ve done have gotten national attention,” Eggert said.

Palmer Court is part of the Permanent Supportive Housing program. Palmer Court, located on 99 S. Main St., is an apartment complex that was purchased by the Road Home. It houses up to 300 of its chronically homeless clients. The chronic clients are people who have been homeless for one year or longer due to mental illness, addiction, or substance abuse. When they live at Palmer Court they sign a lease and pay rent that is reasonable with their income.

Eggert explained how the chronic clients need a slow transition from homelessness to living in housing. Being homeless is all they know and they’re scared of change, on top of trying to combat their personal trials. Specialists are needed for the severe cases. The Road Home is considered to be the general practitioner and they bring in the specialists.

“We try to collaborate, never duplicate services and work closely together,” Eggert said.

The agency partners with people who specialize in a variety of the clients’ necessities, such as jobs, rehabilitation, free medical care, school enrollment for the Salt Lake City districts and therapy. The combination of the staff, specialists and housing is designed to provide Palmer Court clients with a path to recovery.

Rapid Rehousing is the homeless family program. In 2009, it was brought to light that there was an increase in homeless families. Since the program was launched the Road Home reports that “87% of families on that program will never be homeless again.”

What is provided through Rapid Rehousing? According to the website, the families are offered “barrier elimination, housing placement assistance, short term subsidies and supportive services,” until they can get back on their feet.

The third program is the emergency shelter. This is for the clients who need a roof over their head for 24 hours. The men’s and women’s shelters consist of beds, bathrooms, showers, microwaves and hygienic products.

Elise Adams was homeless for five months and never stayed in a shelter.

“They have all these rules and they’re usually run by a church so the rules are often arbitrary. I think it’s easier to sleep in a park undisturbed,” said Adams, who uses a male pronoun.

Once he was informed that the Road Home is not a religious shelter, and there is the emergency shelter program, he admitted he would have stayed there.

Eggert said, “We don’t give up on people, we’re always going to work with them.”

Helping the homeless is financially beneficial for Utah and the community. But more importantly, it’s saving people’s lives. The majority of the beds are used by the clients who stay six months or more. Once individuals get the proper help, they can move up to housing and reach their full potential.

Eggert admits it’s a challenging population to work with. But she said it’s worth it because the staff, donors and volunteers are making a difference. The Road Home is a shelter that recognizes the clients’ unique situations and offers the support needed to overcome homelessness.

Body Buddies, a Salt Lake City fitness company, changes lives

Story and photos by DAVID FISHER

Working at a desk in an investment firm office was the last thing Kristy Jo Hunt wanted to do for the rest of her life. She decided to take one of the biggest risks she has ever been faced with. Hunt, 28, created her own independently-run nutrition and fitness business known as Body Buddies, without any prior experience in the field of business.

In addition, Hunt was not always a fitness guru.

Three years ago, Hunt was overweight and a victim of binge eating. She also suffers from severe scoliosis. Orthopedic doctors had told her that by age 40 she could be in a wheel chair if she did not change her eating habits and stay active because of her deformed back.

Kristy Jo Hunt poses in the gym after working with a client.

Kristy Jo Hunt poses in the gym after working with a client.

However, she conquered her struggles, gained a newfound interest in the field of health and wellness and worked toward her goals of becoming a professional dancer and fitness instructor.

This new interest eventually motivated Hunt to become a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She made drastic changes to her lifestyle, and wanted to help others make lifestyle changes as well. Thus, Body Buddies was launched in January 2014.

Hunt put together a business plan through watching multiple business startup podcasts, attending start-up business conferences and seeking advice from friends and family. She had to make some personal sacrifices along the way, including quitting her full-time job and learning to live off of $20,000 a year.

Those sacrifices underscored her commitment to seeing the success of her clients and independent business.

“Body Buddies is first a people thing, then secondly a business,” Hunt says.

Education is an important aspect of her business model.

Hunt provides weekly coaching calls and meal plans for clients in Utah. The coaching includes a fat loss and muscle gaining workout regime that clients follow on a six-days-a-week basis for 12 weeks. Each workout plan is individualized based on a survey clients fill out at the beginning of this lifestyle change. Questions include food preferences, any kind of physical ailments and a daily schedule.

Clients who pay a base fee of $50 also have access to 250 power food recipes that are full of protein, replace unwanted fats and increase energy levels. Every recipe is taken from her own published cookbook, The Power Foods Lifestyle.

An example of a power foods recipe is Hunt’s chicken ranch slaw burritos. These are a healthy alternative to any kind of processed burrito that is often found in the grocery store. Many of her recipes are healthy replacements to microwaveable freezer meals.

Chicken ranch slaw burritos are one of the many available recipes Hunt provides in her cookbook

Chicken ranch slaw burritos are one of the many available recipes Hunt provides in her cookbook.

“You are the master of yourself,” Hunt explains. “I provide the base, and you create the results.”

Body Buddies originally started with only 50 clients. It now has more than 1,000 clients. Hunt manages multiple client binders, calendars and daily scheduled emails and lists. She even has clients from around the globe in places such as Africa and Europe.

Hunt provides daily coaching calls to her clients. This is where they truly open up about themselves and achieve the results they want to see. She speaks to the individual over the phone and finds out what is and isn’t keeping them motivated. If clients have any questions about their diet, workouts, or life in general. Hunt is available to provide answers.

Some of the best results Hunt has ever seen came from her client, Amy Bellamy, in Salt Lake City. Bellamy has been a client of Hunt’s for almost a year, and has stuck with the Power foods lifestyle the entire time. Hunt explains that Bellamy was constantly motivated to achieve her goals of having a bikini body.

Amy's amazing body transformation from following Hunt's coaching

Amy Bellamy was able to transform her body by following Hunt’s coaching. Photo courtesy of BodBuds Instagram.

Hunt filmed and produced 100 instructional workout videos for her Body Buddies YouTube channel. It was through this channel that many of her clients discovered her business. These videos create an easy and accessible way for clients to understand how to successfully utilize all of their muscles while working out in the gym. For example, clients learn how to successfully perform a seated row weight lift to activate muscles both in their back and in their arms.

Through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Hunt has created a successful way to market to a wide audience of clients.  Hunt has more than 7,000 followers on social media.

Instagram is her main method of gaining followers. She posts workout videos, before-and-after result photos of her clients and motivational quotes every day. It is a quick way to instantly communicate to her followers. However, these posts are only previews of what can come from the full Body Buddies experience.

"The Power Foods Lifestyle" is available for purchase on Hunt's website.

“The Power Foods Lifestyle” is available for purchase on Hunt’s website. Image courtesy of Hunt.

By using hashtags such as #FitFan, #CleanEats and #WeightLossJourney, Hunt has gained public attention of her Instagram posts. These are hashtags that people wanting to start their own fitness journey investigate. Clients see her social media posts and then reach out to her to receive her coaching to start their own fitness journeys. She wants to be the person to help change clients’ lifestyles and make them love their bodies.

Instagram user Tyler Griffin, 23, a student at the University of Utah who uses the handle TGriff08, is a client and one of Hunt’s many followers. “Although I finished my 12-week program with Kristy back in September of 2014 as part of a reshaping of my body during the summer, I still follow her to seek constant new ways to work out, discover new recipes and see the success of many other of her clients who went through the same process that I did,” he says.
Griffin had lost more than 15 pounds during the 12-week process and gained a tremendous amount of muscle to his body. When grocery shopping, he is more aware of the foods that are beneficial to his lifestyle so he can maintain that muscle build that he worked for. 
“There were times when I felt like I wasn’t going to stick to this intense 12- week program,” Griffin says. “But Kristy provided a constant motivational push to keep working for my final goal — and I reached that goal, and I felt like a completely new person when I started my final fall semester.”
Griffin has referred multiple family members and friends to Body Buddies so they could achieve the same lifestyle changes that he accomplished with Hunt’s help.
One such friend was Brooke Legeman, 19, of Salt Lake City who started working with Hunt two weeks ago in hopes of removing the freshman 15 that she gained this past year.
“Being a part of the Body Buddies program is something that I want to commit myself towards to start a completely new health lifestyle,” Legeman said in a phone interview. “Kristy is helping me balance school, work and my fitness goals so that I can achieve the success that I want to achieve. I feel like I am in control of my body and making it back into the shape that I once had … or maybe in even better shape.”
Legeman finds herself going to the gym almost every day now, and avoiding all of the fast food that she was guilty of eating during her freshman year.

Hunt has started her own motivational seminars that she calls “Girls Night Out.” These empowering presentations are held at Salt Lake City gyms. Hunt wants to change the way clients think about themselves, and have their bodies reflect the changes that they can see.

“I’m not a feminist, I’m an empowerist,” Hunt says. “Integrity is the name of the game for people in life. Know where your integrity is at, and never let it crumble.”

Salt Lake City couple takes PALS program into their own hands

Story and slideshow by STACEY WORSTER

Spend time looking at adoptable pets and meet PALS volunteers Carol and Eric Hochstadt.

The Placing Animals with Loving Seniors (PALS) program managed by The Humane Society of Utah benefits both the owner and animal.

Meghan Zach, a volunteer at the Humane Society, said, “It is very beneficial to both the animal and the owner when the owner is in need of a companion and something to worry about, and the animal gets a new loving owner.”

The Humane Society of Utah, located at 4242 South and 300 West, offers low-price deals to people age 65 and older who are looking for a new addition to their life. The adoption fee is waived when they adopt a dog or cat that is at least 8 years old.

“It gives the seniors something to focus on, a reason to get out of the house,” Zach said.

“A lot of the younger dogs are far too energetic for an older adult to take in,” she said in the foyer of the Humane Society. “That is why we strongly push the older dogs for the seniors to adopt.”

Zach said that when an older adult walks in the door, the adoption counselor on duty always asks about their future plans as a pet owner and arrangements that are in place if an emergency were to occur.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “animals are mostly viewed as property so a lot of people are asked if they have a plan if something unexpected were to happen.”

Zach said helping people pick out their new addition is one of her favorite things to do while volunteering.

“It is different helping seniors pick out their new pet because they have decades of experience,” she said. “It is so fun so hear their stories, they love telling them as well.”

Zach is unsure how many older adults adopt pets at the Humane Society of Utah.

“We don’t keep numbers of who buys what dog,” she said. “I usually do at least two or three senior adoptions a week, and I am just one of six adoption counselors so I am sure the other counselors help seniors as well.”

The Humane Society uses word-of-mouth and advertising to spread the word about the PALS program.

“We have two volunteers that go to the senior living centers, we have the PALS program listed on our website and in newspapers,” Zach said. “Every year the advertising to seniors increases, we are just trying to help them find a friend and companion.”

Eric and Carol Hochstadt have taken the PALS program into their own hands.

“We have been volunteering for The Humane Society of Utah since September of 2009,” Eric said. “After retiring we felt that we could do something more to help the dogs in the shelter, this is when we came across the PALS program.”

The couple has spearheaded the program since October 2013. “Making seniors aware of this opportunity is our hope and desire,” Carol said.

Eric said, “We think our work is effective, and the program is progressing if there is awareness.”

So far, the couple only have anecdotal evidence of the program’s success. They hope counselors will begin noting whether an adoption is through the PALS program so they can gather quantitative data.

“Seniors are smart enough to know that there are plenty of costs that go along with owning an animal,” Carol said.

“Just because they get an animal for small cost or free of charge does not mean it won’t be an expensive purchase,” she said.

The Hochstadts said they are passionate about making older adults mindful of all the options that are available to them.

“Even if they don’t go and adopt an animal, it is interaction for them. As long as we’re helping them, we want to be there,” Eric said.

Carol added, “If seniors decide that owning a pet is not the best idea, they can still come to the Humane Society and walk the dogs. It can give them a sense of responsibility and self-worth.”

Walking a dog can help people strike up conversations with strangers. This is another benefit for an older adult who owns an animal.

“It is very important to have interactions if you want to stay sharp throughout aging,” Carol said. “Having a pet opens up that line of communication. Think of the walks you have gone on and recognized someone’s animal and a conversation started because of the pet.”

The biggest addition to the PALS program is the monthly and sometimes weekly visits the Hochstadts make to different Salt Lake City senior centers.

“We have checked out many different senior centers around the Salt Lake City area. Most of them told us we could not bring animals in,” Carol said. “This defeated our purpose of coming in because having animals there is the whole goal and best advertisement we could have.”

However, Tenth East Senior Center allowed Eric and Carol to bring in animals during their visits.

“The person we talked to at the Tenth East Senior Center was obviously a dog lover and wanted to encourage seniors to adopt a pet,” Carol said.

Because this center allowed the Hochstadts to bring in animals from the Humane Society, they decided to recontact the directors of the other senior centers in the area.

“We told them that Tenth East was allowing us to bring in dogs, and it is a county facility,” Carol said. “They didn’t know what to say so they agreed to let us bring in dogs, but they had to be small dogs, and we have to bring potty pads.”

The couple’s persistence paid off.

“It was great, an employee from a senior center that was adamant about us leaving animals outside the door changed her mind,” Carol said. The employee told her, “If you’d like to come once a month, you should.”

The employees who work at the senior centers give the Hochstadts a call and let them know when there are going to be a lot of people in the building.

“We usually arrive around a quarter to eleven. People seem to be there before lunchtime,” Carol said. “Then we end up talking for awhile and leave around 12:30 p.m.”

The Millcreek Recreation Center put up a table for the Hochstadts to set up their display and talk about the PALS program.

“We sat right next to a fireplace. It was very inviting for people to come and visit,” she said. “It was great because they would tell us their stories about their pets. Even if they aren’t particularly interested in adopting a pet, they are able to tell their stories.”

Many aspects of the PALS program are altered to impress aging adults, but giving people the option to take home a pet can be comforting — as long as it’s a good match.

Carol said a family adopted a puppy for their aging mother, and one week later returned it.

“They came back to the Humane Society and adopted a 10-year-old dog and she loved it. Perfect temperament,” Carol said.

The Hochstadts have found that pet owners find it comforting to care for an older animal.

“Just as they shouldn’t be put out to pasture and considered not valuable because of their age, the older animals that are turned in to the shelter shouldn’t be ignored and considered unadoptable,” Carol said.

The couple said this volunteer job is incredibly rewarding.

“People we have helped adopt a pet still thank us every time they see us,” Eric said. “They say they cannot imagine life without their companion.”

Emeritus Salt Lake focuses on building relationships with residents

Story and photo by IAN SMITH

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Picture yourself as an elder, and you know your time on this earth is decreasing. You know you can no longer take care of yourself. You need assistance. To everyone else, it may be time for a nursing home.

You pack up your stuff. Where did the time go, you keep asking yourself? How did life flash that fast and how has it come to this? You set off in the car that takes you to the home. As you pull up your first impression is that it could work for you. But you still have many questions and not that many answers.

“No one wants to go into a nursing home,” said Anne Palmer Peterson, executive director of the Utah Commission on Aging. The Utah Legislature created the commission in 2005 to address issues related to the fast-growing aging population in the state. Peterson said it is a young state, but it also is the “sixth-fastest aging state in the nation.” Among other things, the commission has studied housing options for older adults. The findings were published in New Trends in Housing for Utah’s Aging Population.

“We want people to be thinking proactively about their futures,” she said.

Even so, it can be difficult to leave all of your memories behind you.

The idea of a “nursing home” isn’t too appealing to many people, though.

Brian Culliton, the executive director at Emeritus Salt Lake at 76 South and 500 East, said people have very different opinions of nursing homes.

Every facility is different, whether it’s a nursing home or assisted living center. Some facilities, like Emeritus, offer help for certain issues residents might be dealing with. Dementia, for example, is taken very seriously at the assisted living facility.

“We provide a family orientation with a caretaker,” Culliton said in a phone interview. “We have a well rounded understanding of what that resident’s day looks like. We want to keep it routine. We have other care providers that will come and talk to give a better understanding of the disease.”

Culliton said the staff and volunteers who work at Emeritus Salt Lake are passionate about the work they do and want nothing more than to help the people they are caring for.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

“I’m really passionate about attracting the right [residents],” he said. “It’s that feeling of leaving home if anyone has dementia, you’re leaving your familiar space. You’ve been there for 50-plus years and now you’re going to a new space. It goes back to that care.”

Culliton knows that some older adults are afraid to be alone. But, sometimes that fear prevents people from seeking help.

He said Emeritus Salt Lake aims to offer more than just the borderline help. Staff go above and beyond to help the new residents by developing a personal relationship with them as soon as they walk in the door. Residents are given an orientation and shown around the building.

“With assisted living, every department head goes and introduces themselves and gives them the care that they expect,” Culliton said. “We look at it as kind of like a marriage. Know each other right up front. If we look at the process at the point when somebody applies, we go to their house or hospital and get to know the family immediately and when they move in, we talk about what is best and how to care for the seniors.”

Markel Martinez, a resident assistant at Emeritus Salt Lake, knows how important it is to build relationships. He has had residents find friends at the facility and even fall in love.

“I would want the resident to know that I’m there to help them,” Martinez said. “To be their friend that they can trust and talk to.”

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