OGDEN -- Representatives from nonprofit groups, government agencies and local school districts met Friday morning for the sixth annual Safety Net Summit sponsored by United Way of Northern Utah. The summit is designed to help local agencies brainstorm what the needs are of residents in Weber County --especially those who live in poverty for the upcoming year so United Way can apply its funds in the best places.
United Way Director of Community Impact Leslie Herold talked about the history of the summit. Six years ago when the summit was started, the community was facing a long winter with much funding to local agencies being cut and many people in the area out of jobs and homeless. She was impressed with the way the community came together, and because of that success, the summit has continued.
Now the groups are looking more deeply into community issues and how to help the most people permanently.
As breakout sessions formed to discuss the specific needs of housing, food, health care, safety and education, much discussion centered on helping people in the community to change their habits and way of thinking to improve their lives.
Allan Child, the manager of the LDS Church's Bishop's Storehouse in Ogden, said he would like for people to be taught some skills.
"We need to get people relying on themselves," he said.
He has found that is the best way for those he has helped to find happiness. "I see that light in their eyes ... it is very rewarding," he said.
As some of the groups talked, they echoed Child's suggestions.
Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister said she has found that change has to come from within.
"I used to think that the hard part was making housing available ... the hard part is changing habits," she said of those who struggle with homelessness and even home ownership. Many in her group agreed, but said it is difficult to help people to change their habits when they have to live in bad neighborhoods in central Ogden with the same relationships that cause problems in their lives.
Patrick Cox, from Weber Human Services, agreed and said it would almost be better for people to rent in a nicer neighborhood than to buy homes they can afford in a bad neighborhood if they want to help them change their lifestyles.
Kate Bideaux, from Ogden School District, said that networking among the various organizations is vital. It was also suggested that barriers need to be removed for people to understand the value of education not only for their children, but also for themselves. Jeremy Botelho, with Cottages of Hope, said they need to be careful to not cater to one ethnic group over another -- that it is vitally important to make sure everyone is being brought under the umbrella.
Eric Mitchell, a consultant with Fifth Ocean Consulting, a nonprofit organization that helps groups sort through problems and gain new ideas, led many of the discussions at the summit.
"We need to describe the most critical issues and see who is most impacted, so we are not back at this table discussing it again next year," Mitchell said.
Attendees were given workbooks detailing sobering facts about education, housing, employment, health, food and safety in Weber County.
Herold told the groups they needed to create a set of recommendations that would help United Way know what they feel the priorities are for the coming year. The groups listed ideas, and it will be the job of United Way and Mitchell to compile a detailed report, in the next month, of the findings from the summit and where grants will be directed.