Kim's Retrospective on the Creation of The INN Between

A message of love and acceptance from the neighborhood kids A message of love and acceptance from the neighborhood kids Kim Correa

Kim Correa, Executive Director, The INN Between
August 17, 2020, Salt Lake City


Five years ago, in a moment forever etched in my memory, The INN Between opened our doors and received our first client, Olivia, a young woman who was dying of breast cancer. Since January 9, 2015, my first official day as Executive Director, I had been working long hours into the evening, problem solving with Ken Millo, an architect who came to my rescue and became a dedicated volunteer, to overcome obstacles—zoning, licensing, and community fears. We learned of Olivia early in the process and were particularly motivated to get her off the streets. As you can imagine, I was overcome with joy and relief as I welcomed her to what would become her final home.

This story is a personal account of my involvement with The INN Between, which began one day in 2013, when Brent Jones, CEO of Community Nursing Services (CNS), walked into my office, placed a piece of paper on my desk, and said, “I’d like you to start attending these meetings.” (Coincidentally, this man would resurface in my life five years later to sell us a nursing home on 1300 South, now The INN Between’s permanent home). I headed to that fateful meeting not knowing that I would become acquainted with a group of visionaries who wanted to change the way we treat dying people who are experiencing homelessness.

Previously, like many people, I had been unaware of the complexities of homelessness, sequestering that unfortunate aspect of society toward the back of my mind, and I assumed that “the system” had a solution for those who were dying. I did not know that many people died on the streets with little media attention, or, unable to cope with the pain, anxiety, and desperation, chose to end their lives.

At that first encounter, I met Deborah Thorpe, an Advance Practice Registered Nurse working at Huntsman Cancer Hospital. She had the inspiration, back in 2010, to create a “hospice for the homeless,” a home that would offer compassion, peace, safety, dignity, and most importantly, access to hospice care, a critical end-of-life medical service that can’t be delivered in shelters, motels, or encampments. I also met Monte Hanks, then Client Services Director at Fourth Street Clinic, and Dan Hull, Executive Director of the Utah Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. These dedicated individuals founded the committee that would later become The INN Between’s first board of directors.

The committee comprised people from all walks of life: government agencies, nonprofits, hospice agencies, the medical community, chaplains, and concerned citizens. As volunteers (no funding had yet been obtained), we worked on topics as varied as creating the organization’s name and logo, drafting policies and procedures, strategizing business models, and finding a suitable location from which to operate. With no other end-of-life programs for the homeless in the country, we lacked a model from which to work and were creating the program from scratch.

Over the course of a year, my knowledge of homelessness grew exponentially, and I was developing a strong personal desire to make a difference; however, I did not know quite how to proceed. I met with Ed Blake, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, and he gave me a list of people to contact, including Lloyd Pendleton, the Director of Homeless Services for the State of Utah, who strongly supported the idea and guided me in establishing more connections.

In the late spring of 2014, Jennifer Gregory, a Registered Nurse, and I created a referral program to secure donated beds in skilled nursing facilities for homeless hospital patients who were near death. With this, word of The INN Between began to grow in the medical community, and we went on to include homeless service providers like Volunteers of America and The Road Home in our outreach circle.


In the fall of 2014, things really started to pick up steam. Jennifer found a donor to support the Executive Director’s salary for a year, a position she was slated for (as a single mother of two middle-school children, I was quite content to work my steady 8 to 5 job at CNS and serve The INN Between as a volunteer). I was able to secure our first grant, a $10,000 from American Express passed through CNS. I created the corporation and submitted our nonprofit application (known as Form 1023) to the IRS, with the mission of “facilitating temporary shelter for medically fragile homeless individuals in the Salt Lake metropolitan area who need a safe place to recuperate or spend the end-of-life” (the nonprofit status was approved within three months). About the same time, I recall a committee meeting where Monte shared a potential property, the old Roman Catholic convent on Goshen Street. Later, Deacon George Reade, who was responsible for the Diocese properties, met with us and became very interested in the project—this would become the tipping point in the evolution of The INN Between as we began to envision setting up our home in that sacred space.

Then, just before Christmas, Jennifer called to tell me that she had accepted an amazing job and was moving to Georgia. With no Executive Director, our project was at risk of fizzling out.  A few days later, I started to wonder if I was qualified. I am not a nurse, but I have business and nonprofit management experience. After spending many days contemplating the notion, my passion for the cause won out, and I threw my hat in the ring. I was extremely humbled and honored that the board of directors placed their faith in me.

January 9, 2015 was my last day at CNS and my first at The INN Between (I had planned to take two weeks off, but that didn’t work out, and skipping vacations would become the norm). Despite not having a formal lease, Deacon Reade allowed me to set up an office in the convent, and, with the board’s help, I started fervently working toward two goals: opening the doors and getting funding to support the cause. On a dark and freezing cold winter’s evening, Debbie, a couple of volunteers, and I sat bundled up at a plastic table in front of the convent, offering hot chocolate to the neighbors and explaining our mission. Everyone we spoke with expressed heartfelt support for the concept in a compassionate way, reinforcing to us that the location we had chosen, or that had chosen us, would be perfect.

We sent a flyer around the neighborhood to explain our plan and received many offers to help with cleaning, furniture, and the like.  In May, we held a Ribbon Cutting and House Blessing Ceremony, attended by clergy, elected officials, and over 100 community members who strongly supported our cause and welcomed The INN Between to the neighborhood.   Things were going swimmingly at first, but things started to become rocky when one neighbor spearheaded a campaign to block The INN Between. She got the attention of the media, and a reporter from FOX13 showed up at the door one afternoon. He asked so many questions, and eventually confided that was there to "dig up dirt," but finding our mission so compelling, he was going to run a positive story that sparked visits by many other reporters. Seemingly overnight, the media attention raised awareness about our program, and scores of people surfaced to support our cause with their time, talent, and treasury. ABC4 Utah’s Randall Carlisle soon became a staunch proponent of our cause and is still a mentor, having moved on to follow his passion at Odyssey House. We received our first big donation as a stand-alone nonprofit from Dan Adams at CIT Bank—$20,000, breaking the ice and paving the way for other foundations and companies to follow suit. KUED Producers Sally Shaum and Nancy Green took an interest, later gaining approval to film a documentary that would follow our program for a year, and in particular chronicle the life and death of one resident, Jim Adams (you can watch Homeless at the End online at https://www.pbsutah.org/video/homeless-the-end). On May 15th, we held a Ribbon Cutting and House Blessing Ceremony, attended by more than 100 people who were eager to help.

Our two buildings, the convent and the adjacent old Guadalupe School, were in need of painting, cleaning, furnishing, and repairs. Brent Willis, Executive Director of Home Inn, a transitional housing program, enlisted the help of his residents and members of the homeless community, who were thrilled to give back in support of this, and many of whom undoubtedly had first-hand experience with someone dying on the streets. About 100 volunteers from Windermere Realty transformed an area of dead grass and prickly bushes into a beautiful Memorial Garden. Neighbor Larry Martinez installed a fence along the entire back of the property to give the neighbors some privacy (the first of many volunteer projects he would help with). And numerous other church groups, boy scout troops, companies, and individuals stepped forward—too many to recount.

One volunteer in particular, Matilda Lindgren, a gentle soul who had briefly been homeless herself, would soon volunteer, become one of the first employees, and quickly rise to the position of Program Director. Matilda is truly the heart and soul of The INN Between. Her compassion, way with people, and experience with the dying process perfectly complemented my business-oriented skill set. We formed a special bond, each focused on different aspects of running organization, but inextricably linked, like the roots of an Aspen grove. Together, we would grow The INN Between, creating a model that other communities would seek to follow.

Despite the positive press, the neighbors began to develop an intense fear that their quite little street would devolve into a drug and crime infested “homeless central,” akin to downtown’s Rio Grande Street at the time. With no experience to the contrary, we could not easily assuage their fears. Our instincts told us that people who are sick and dying would be grateful for the opportunity to live in harmony with the neighborhood, but only time would bear that out (which, turned out to be the case as we found, sadly, that once in our care, residents rarely meandered about or received visitors). 

This dissent caught the attention of Salt Lake City’s City Council, and a temporary ordinance almost shut our program down before it ever started. Fortunately, with the help of Ken Millo, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, and others, we were able to overcome these obstacles; however, code compliance issues stilted our progress again, principally the lack of a fire suppression system (fire sprinklers) in the convent. Ken and I were strategizing in my office late one afternoon when an idea struck me—we had previously received a substantial cash donation from Kent Mann, CEO of Fire Engineering Company. I mentioned this to Ken who urged me to place a call. It was about 5:00 pm, closing time, yet Kent answered, listened to our predicament, and sent someone right over to estimate the job.

About a week later, Kent called to tell me that the employees had a big meeting and decided, unanimously, to donate the entire job—a saving grace that, once again, set The INN Between back on course. They finished the job in under two weeks, the last step in the process to get our Certificate of Occupancy. The final inspection took place late in the day on Friday, August 14, 2015, and it passed. First thing Monday morning, I set foot in the Salt Lake City Planning Division office and asked for Ken Andersen. He greeted me with a warm smile and asked me to take a seat and wait. About a half-hour later, he returned, beaming, and handed me a freshly signed Certificate of Occupancy.

I was able to locate Olivia and make arrangements for her to move in that day. She arrived at The INN Between later that afternoon, wheeled up the ramp to our front door, picked the room of her choice, and started to make herself at home. Olivia lived at The INN Between for 57 days before succumbing to cancer. During that time, she was able to spend time with her three children, reconnect with her mother Cecily, and return to some sense of normalcy in life.

Since Olivia, we have had the honor and privilege to help 75 other people (now our Angels) at the end of their lives—people from backgrounds as varied as a woman who had never been homeless, a homeless engineer and former Wall Street professional, and a hard-core heroin addict who spent most of his life in and out of prison. Each person we encounter has a unique story and intrinsic value, simply by virtue of being a human being, that merits kindness, compassion, respect, and dignity at the end of life.

I am unable to mention the names of all the people who played a role in the launch of The INN Between, for the list is too long. But I am eternally grateful for their commitment to the cause and their belief in me. They seemed to have passed me from hand to hand, as if I were a pail of water in a delicate fire bucket brigade, propelling me toward the final goal.

The day I met Lloyd Pendleton, he told me to enlist the help of the Angels, a practice I have engaged in from that day forward. It is my firm belief that the Angels played the most significant role in every step along the path of The INN Between’s evolution, I eagerly anticipate the next five years, watching as our amazing team of staff and volunteers help future souls pass from this earthly realm into that of the Angels.

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