OGDEN — The Ogden Rescue Mission has merged with a similar, larger entity in Salt Lake City in a move that leaders say will allow the shelters to more quickly meet the growing demands of homelessness.

“We were holding our own but it was getting beyond the point where we had funding enough to hire more people to offer more classes and programs and counseling,” said Judy Doud, the Ogden mission’s director.

The Ogden mission was absorbed this summer by the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, which has two shelters and two specialized program sites in the Salt Lake area.

The two nonprofit missions have a shared origin and a long history of friendship and collaboration, said Chris Croswhite, CEO and executive director of the newly combined organization.

The Ogden mission, located at 2781 Wall Ave., was founded in 1965. Salt Lake’s mission was formed seven years later by several Salt Lake-area businessmen who had been regularly driving north to Ogden to volunteer at that mission.

Croswhite said the merger will allow improvement of the Ogden mission’s inpatient substance abuse program. Adding a transitional housing program also is being considered, he said.

All donations to the Ogden mission will continue to be dedicated to Ogden’s operations and programs, he said. The missions are funded exclusively by private donations and they depend on continued community support, he said.

Flexibility provided by the merger will fit into an emerging philosophy of offering services to the homeless on a more decentralized basis, meaning more people will find help closer to their home areas, Croswhite said.

The Road Home shelter in downtown Salt Lake City closed this week, to be replaced by three other smaller shelters in the area.

“Homeless service providers in the state of Utah and in the cities have come to recognize that it is best not to have a centralized location,” he said. “Having one shelter with 1,100 people is too many people in one location.”

Doud said the merger has been “wonderful” for the Ogden mission.

“We have been able to add more classes and more counseling for our graduates to teach them to become self-sufficient,” she said. “It’s working out terrific for us.”

Since the weather has turned colder, the Ogden mission has been taking in about 40 men and a dozen women in overnight dormitory-style areas, Doud said.

“And we have about 25 men sleeping on the floor of the chapel at nights,” she said.

The mission’s drug rehabilitation program is serving 34 men and six women, she added.

The mission hosts Bible study each morning, Doud said. It’s a nondenominational approach, she added.

Croswhite said the larger organization will continue monitoring trends in homelessness.

He noted that according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, nine of every 10,000 people in Utah are homeless. That’s compared with 32 in California and 46 in New York.

“There seems to be a trend,” he said, that the rate of homelessness worsens with population growth.

“Utah is doing a really good job now, but that’s my greatest concern for the longer term for the state of Utah,” Croswhite said.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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