OGDEN — Lantern House’s overnight shelter space has been reduced amid safety concerns, forcing the nonprofit to turn away homeless people on some evenings.
Ogden City officials and the fire marshal’s office reviewed the building’s usages this spring, and since July 1, the shelter has been prohibited from housing people overnight in upstairs program rooms, Lantern House’s executive director, Lauren Navidomskis, said Friday.
That cut the shelter’s capacity from 309 to 211, Navidomskis said. Since then the shelter has been allowed to open its kitchen and community room for night overflow, so capacity has risen to 274.
“Last night we were 100% full,” she said.
Most of the shelter’s capacity, about 180 beds, is taken up by people in its residential program, Navidomskis said. Those people are enrolled in programs to help them get housing and jobs.
“As long as we’ve been open since 2015 we were under the impression we could hold 300-plus people,” she said.
Lantern House’s architect is working with the city on a plan to reconfigure overnight sleeping arrangements to conform to code, Navidomskis said.
“We can’t be putting people in a building and have something happen and getting someone killed,” she said.
Electrical and fire suppression systems are being reviewed as part of the upgrade.
There’s no cost estimate yet on the reconfiguration, but Navidomskis said the Lantern House board is committed to doing what is necessary.
State funding and community donations to help with the project also are being sought.
Other community agencies, such as the Ogden Rescue Mission, have pitched in to help with the overflow problem, she said.
There’s no letup in demand for homeless sheltering in the Ogden area.
“I’m super nervous about the New York individuals,” Navidomskis said, referring to a New York Post report that New York City has paid 12,000 sheltered people to relocate to hundreds of cities around the country, giving them rent and travel money.
She said verifying whether that may impact Ogden has been added to the data-gathering tasks Lantern House is using to try to determine where its homeless are originating.
“We are seeing people from all over,” she said. “But with all the drama abut where people are coming from, our mission is to just open up our doors and do what we can with what we get. It’s inevitable people will want to find a place like us for shelter.”
Ogden has experienced more homelessness influx since Operation Rio Grande began in 2017 in Salt Lake City. It was a program to clean up crime around the city’s largest shelter downtown.
“People are still coming up north,” Navidomskis said, but the word is out that Lantern House has a capacity problem, which could limit the inbound flow.
“With the winter months coming, it is important to continue to keep our doors open,” she said.
Lantern House is seeking donations of sheets, blankets and canned food, she said.