Utah homeless shelter receives criticism for treatment of residents

OGDEN, Utah — Northern Utah’s largest homeless shelter responds to growing criticism over the treatment of people in crisis.

While residents and drop-in clients get food and shelter, guests say they’re missing humanity.

Amy Oropza ran from domestic violence only to end up homeless with six children.

“It’s been difficult,” Oropza said.

In the four months she’s stayed at the Lantern House, she says, “it feels like I have not left my abusive relationship”

The shelter aims for weekly updates with a caseworker, but for months, Amy said she got little help.

“I was swept under the carpet. I was left alone with no help from anybody,” Oropza said.

Pictures show her children waiting in the cold until 9:30 p.m. to get a temporary bed. Once inside, overflow bathrooms don’t have doors. There’s even a camera pointed at the toilets and showers. They’ve slept on a thin mat with little else.

“I don’t trust the staff,” Tanya Stulce said.

Stulce says she was assaulted by a stranger over several hours on shelter property.

“Trying to pet me, caress me, trying to talk dirty to me, telling me how much he loves me,” Stulce said.

Stulce didn’t report the abuse to the staff, claiming they only look out for themselves.

“There is no respect from the ones who were working last night, which is not right,” Joe Moore said.

Lantern House Executive Director Lauren Navidomskis said her staff of 34 is continuously recorded by both video and audio, that is checked when a complaint is made.

“What we are doing and what we are saying need to be the same. That’s what we are here to do is become completely transparent and save lives of those in need,” Navidomskis said.

We took the concerns to the Board of Directors Chair Jay Stretch.

“We are doing our best,” Stretch said.

He says the Lantern House is continuously looking at ways to improve the client experience, which can often be difficult with limited resources. But it’s not at bad as people paint it out to be.

“I think that it is very important that they realize that we are human,” Oropza said.

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