Ogden homeless shelter sees record number of homeless children come through their doors

OGDEN, Utah -- More kids than ever before are staying at the homeless shelter in Ogden, and the shelter said they're doing what they can to accommodate everyone.

Development Director Lauren Navidomskis said the Lantern House recently reached a record of 88 children in one night. Normally, she said they see about 50 kids per night.

"88 is just astronomical," she said. On Tuesday, around 70 children under the age of 18 filtered into the Lantern House with their parents to stay the night.

Some families showed up for the first time that day. Others have been staying for several weeks.

They've been making room for everyone who comes in.

"It's playing a game of Tetris," Navidomskis said.

They place a couple of families in each of their 13 rooms designated for families and put others in overflow areas.

"We just try to figure out a place to put them," she said. "We have our rooms, and an available space for them, or sometimes they're on the lobby floor."

Navidomskis said families are allowed to stay for 90 days while parents secure housing and jobs.

Kendrick Armstead said he, his wife and two children have called the Lantern House home for about a month.

The military veteran said his family needed shelter and stability, after having to abruptly leave their last living situation.

"We would have been living out of a car," he said if hadn't come to the Lantern House.

They showed up during the summer, and that's when Navidomskis said they normally see a spike in families needing services before it begins to drop off in the fall.

Still, the numbers they're seeing now are more than what they usually see, she said. It's part of a trend they've been seeing for the past few years.

"Unfortunately, it's stayed pretty steady over the last few weeks," Navidomskis said.

Perhaps part of the reason for the uptick, she indicated-- an affordable housing shortage.

Navidomskis said it also can be difficult to place families into housing because of credit and criminal background checks.

The Lantern House works with residents on budgeting, she said, so they can save up money.

She said they also provide other resources and give people the skills to get back on their feet.

When it comes to the kids, Navidomskis said they make sure everyone is enrolled in school.

"We do what we can to provide a sense of normalcy for these kids," she said.

For families like the Armsteads, they're grateful for the normalcy.

Kendrick said both he and his wife work, and he's been able to save up money for a new place for his family because of the Lantern House.

"It's been a big blessing for my family," he said.

Navidomskis said they're accepting donations for children that include new and gently used clothing and shoes, school supplies, and monetary donations.