Iron County Care and Share uses grant funds to hire private security, reduce pressure on police

CEDAR CITY — The Iron County Care and Share used grant funds and hired private security to reduce pressure on law enforcement and assist in outreach efforts. They also are seeking community support to fund the assistance they offer to Iron County’s homeless population.

The sign outside Iron County Care and Share, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 17, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

The Cedar City Council voted unanimously Wednesday evening to approve a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Iron County Care and Share and a grant agreement between the city and the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The Care and Share already was awarded the $123,530 workforce services grant, but the state requires the funding to pass through a municipality, Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams said.

One purpose of the program, which began Nov. 1, is to reduce “some of that pressure” the organization puts on the Police Department, Naomi Ewen, who worked as a finance coordinator with the nonprofit, said.

The state grant typically begins July 1 and runs through June 30 of the following year, Ewen said, adding that they’ve also submitted a proposal for the 2024 fiscal year.

The Care and Share used $75,920 to contract Onsite Private Security, which will provide security guards, Ewen said. Additionally, about $2,500 will be provided for the officer’s fuel and approximately $3,000 for their professional development.

Since security officers have been on-site, they’ve only called 911 once for a medical emergency, Ewen said.

“In the last 15 days, we did not have to call the police,” she said. “So … having a security officer on staff mitigates that and doesn’t take the resources away from the police.”

The sign outside Iron County Care and Share, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 17, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

From Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, the shelter reportedly had 108 incidents, Ewen said. Now, the onsite security guard will decide when to call the police for situations they can’t handle. The guards will have their own office and be available to the Care and Share six or seven days a week.

The Police Department also has run the data and noticed a “bit of a decrease” in calls from the shelter, Adams said, adding that “everybody behaves” when the security guard is there but “they tend to get a bit restless” after the officer leaves.

“So to have that on-site presence is hugely helpful,” he said. “It decreases our response there. … And then I’m excited about the potential of what we can see with the outreach.”

The security officer will assist with outreach by offering resources and supplies, like sleeping bags and hygiene kits, to homeless people staying in several camps near the city and see if they have medical needs that need attention, Ewen told Cedar City News during a phone interview.

In some cases, the individuals may be offered a place to stay outside of the camp. The grant includes approximately $20,000 in hotel or motel vouchers that could be used to provide a room to a homeless person or family when the shelter is full, which Ewen said is about 95% of the time.

Stock photo of a homeless person holding a sign. | Image courtesy of Iron County Care and Share, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Instead of having people sleep in their cars in the cold, we can actually have some people stay in the hotels for a couple of nights,” she said.

The grant also included about $10,000 that would support the shelter’s rental assistance program as part of their homelessness prevention efforts, Ewen said.

Homelessness in Iron County is “mostly hidden,” Ewan said, adding that most of the population is in the canyons or on the outskirts of the city.

“I think people sometimes forget that this is actually a big problem that we’re trying to resolve because you don’t usually see homeless people out on the street that much – it’s not as obvious as it will be in Salt Lake City,” she said. “And we need help.”

Iron County Care and Share also is seeking support from the community to assist their clients and “keep the doors open,” Ewen said. In the last year, “13 people died in homelessness.”

“We need help from our community to ensure that people are going to be OK,” she said.

Those interested in supporting the shelter can donate via their website here or call the shelter at 435-586-5142. To reach the finance department, follow the recorded instructions. Those interested in volunteering can fill out an application here.

View Ewen and Adams’ presentation on Cedar City Council’s YouTube channel at this link.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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