Have you ever wondered how this work all got started? How The INN Between went from an idea to a 16- bed social model hospice, to a 50-bed assisted living facility where individuals experiencing homelessness can come to recuperate from illness and injury or come to pass away peacefully at the end of life? It is a great question, especially since there were no other models or programs for us to learn from. As we have been exposing residents to compassion, dignity, and respect, we wanted to expose the community to our roots and how we first came to be, exposing all the visionaries and their service to starting The INN Between.
In early 2010, while working at her local church’s food bank, a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner at Huntsman Cancer Hospital, Deborah Thorpe, was recounting how she frequently cared for homeless patients with late-stage cancer. When others would ask her if she worked with individuals experiencing homelessness, Debbie responded that she was frequently frustrated and unable to come up with a suitable placement because hospice can’t be delivered in shelters or on the streets. It was heartbreaking. It was Deborah who had the inspiration 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.
From that conversation, Ms. Thorpe launched a monthly committee meeting with a growing attendance. The committee included people from all walks of life: government agencies, nonprofits, hospice agencies, the medical community, chaplains, homeless service providers, and concerned citizens. Integral knowledge came from many individuals already operating a nonprofit helping the homeless experiencing medical crises, like Fourth Street Clinic. This powerhouse committee came together to ensure that no one died alone on our streets. Outlined below are some of this committee’s key players.
- Monte Hanks, then Client Services Director of Fourth Street and current employee of The INN Between, had spent over 20 years working on a local and national level to ensure that the term “Medical Respite” was recognized for our unsheltered population paving the way for a program providing hospice and medical respite for the homeless to be recognized. Monte also served as the Board Secretary in 2015.
- Alan Ainsworth, founder of Fourth Street Clinic, worked with people on the streets for years and was able to realize the dream of opening The INN Between as one of its co-founders. "My strong belief is that we're only as strong a nation as the weakest amongst us," he said.
- David Pascoe has supported The INN Between since the beginning, is currently a board member and volunteers as a chaplain and is part of the NODA (No One Dies Alone) training team at The INN Between.
- Sandy Timboe was a founding board member who launched the role of Client Advocate, which would soon help our respite clients navigate the healthcare and housing systems. She trained Client Advocates as a volunteer, took a break from volunteering, and then came full circle, working as The INN Between’s Assistant RN and Assessment Nurse before retiring and moving out of state in February of 2023.
- Jeff McNally, then Intermountain Hospital Medical Director, was a founding supporter, board member and continues his board service today as the Board Secretary and as a hospice physician for Intermountain Health. “It’s less about the medical care and more about being safe and having people who care about you who can help you get through what is about to happen,” said Jeff.
- Dan Hull, then Executive Director of the Utah Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a nonprofit that took The INN Between under its stewardship and brought amazing insight to the needs of The INN Between’s program, served on The INN Between’s board for many years as the Secretary. This was an easy mission to get "It's hard to provide hospice under the viaduct," said Dan.
- Lloyd Pendleton, then Director of Homeless Services for the State of Utah spent many years working in the homeless community, saw the need for this program and championed its mission.
- Brent Willis, then Executive Director of Home Inn, a transitional housing program.
- Brent Jones, then CEO of Community Nursing Services recruited Kim Correa, future Executive Director.
- Jennifer Gregory, then a Registered Nurse, served as The INN Between’s first Program Director and was slated to be the first Executive Director. Jennifer secured funding for her position at The INN Between but ended up accepting a job out of state, leaving this position at The INN Between but ended up accepting a job out of state, leaving this position open.
- Ken Milo, Architect, started volunteering his time in mid-2015 to help develop a plan and obtain the proper zoning and occupancy permits from the City
- Sharon Strong, MD at House Call Doctors, served as The INN Between’s Medical Officer on the Board of Directors in 2015.
- Ruth Zollinger, The INN Between Board Member, Deacon George Reade of the Catholic Diocese and overseer of their properties, Reverend Steve Anderson of the Episcopal Church, and Kent Man, CEO of Fire Engineering Company all played a role in the opening of The INN Between.
A collaboration with Fourth Street clinic was integral in ensuring there was not a duplication of services and that clients served by The INN Between could receive care at Fourth Street Clinic. “Nobody should die alone like that,” said Kristy Chambers, then Executive Director of Fourth Street Clinic. “These folks deal with enough indignity in their lives. They should at least be allowed to die with some degree of dignity.
But everything is extended out to the extreme when you’re dealing with our homeless individuals. We’ve had problems getting homeless people placed in hospice care. We knew we needed to do something about this.” Fourth Street Clinic decided to collaborate to help see The INN Between become a reality. “We travel all over the country and we meet with other homeless service providers,” said Monte. “We are often on the cutting edge in terms of the services we’re able to provide here (at Fourth Street), and people ask us how we do it. The answer is simple: collaboration.” He continued “This is your community member. Would you let your neighbor die on the street? Would you let them die alone if you knew what was going on in their house? Would you not want to be there for them?"
As The INN Between had yet to secure funding, this group worked as volunteers 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 off and they were creating the program from scratch. Members of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and other interested agencies were being trained to prepare surrogate families to add that much-needed link in the hospice chain.
For the next four years, several options were explored. The INN Between underwent several transitions. Organized first under Fourth Street Clinic, then under Utah Hospice and Palliative Care and then as a standalone organization. The committee, who were to become the first Board of Directors for The INN Between, worked with all their partners in the community. The former Guadalupe Elementary school on Goshen Street was identified and access to the abandoned building was negotiated. The INN Between had a home! It was not an easy road and it required numerous meetings, endless conversations with the city and attorneys to determine licensing and the category of facility they would place us in, as nothing similar had been done before in Salt Lake City or Utah.
“A hospice for the homeless will happen.” Monte said. “I have no doubt of it. This community will make it happen. It always does. Look at what the Catholic Church does at the Weigand Center, or what the Episcopal Church does with their food pantry, or what (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) does at Welfare Square, or what the Presbyterians and Methodists and Unitarians and just about every other faith group I can think of does here in this community. These are people of great faith, and they live it. Trust me. This facility will happen.”
On November 16th 2014 the first fundraising event was held, A Simple Soup Supper, to introduce our mission to the larger community and raise awareness about the need for compassionate end-of-life housing for the homeless. It was no coincidence that Board members Kim Correa and Jennifer Gregory planned this event during National Hospice Month to raise funds that will go toward a home for those under their care. The theme was chosen to pay homage to the thousands of people who rely on soup kitchens for their daily sustenance.
Kim Correa, then Director of Fund Development at Community Nursing Services and Board Member of The INN Between, became Executive Director on January 9, 2015 and immediately went to work. On August 17, 2015, The INN Between opened its doors. Representative and Social Worker Sandra Hollins was the official ribbon cutter. The first resident to move in was a young mother, with younger children, who was battling cancer at the time. She arrived at The INN Between later that afternoon, wheeled up the ramp to the 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. "I was hesitant at first because I know that I'm a little young to even be considering my mortality, but I guess when you need it, you need it," said Olivia.
Now, close to eight years later, and being the place between dying on the streets or experiencing a peaceful passing with dignity and respect, The INN Between has benefited from the numerous voices that provided advocacy and support for this humanitarian mission. The list of names is long, some we may not even know, nonetheless, we are here to expose those that put their hearts and minds on the line to envision and create this beautiful place, The INN Between. On behalf of those we serve and the 114 individuals who have passed away with dignity, we thank you.