The INN Between helps adults experiencing homelessness obtain health and end-of-life careJul 22, 2021 12h14 ● By Sona Schmidt Harris
Jim Adams was one of the INN’S first residents and the featured resident in KUED’s documentary, “Homeless at the End.” (Photo courtesy of The INN Between)
By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]
The INN Between, tucked in an inconspicuous corner in Sugar House, helps adults experiencing homelessness to obtain professional hospice care. In addition to hospice care, The INN provides housing, three meals a day, enriching activities and more. It is also a place the homeless can go to prepare for surgery and recover from serious illness or injury.
Currently licensed to take 50 residents, 25 assisted living residents and 25 independent living residents, the INN’s population has been down due to COVID.
“We stopped taking the residents completely,” Interim Executive Director Jeanie Ashby said. “We had to protect the people who are already here, and then we've obviously opened back up again, and I expect to be full to the brim by the end of the month.”
Generous donations from The Utah Food Bank, The Bishop’s Storehouse and others help to keep the INN functioning.
In addition to donated provisions, volunteers provide cosmetology, chaplain and other services. There is an in-house library created in partnership with the Salt Lake County Library, who switches out the books periodically.
An especially successful program was created with the generous support of Beading Hearts Jewelry. Residents create jewelry which is made available for donations to the INN.
“Some patients spend over an hour just sorting beads for those making jewelry,” Kellie Mieremet, program assistant, said. “It’s very therapeutic for some residents.”
For those who give their permission, The INN publishes obituaries on their website for residents who died within its walls. Many of them died in their 50s or younger.
“There are serious health problems all associated with what we call social determinants of health,” Ashby said. “Lower life expectancies are tied to things like education, housing, whether or not they have a job, race and other factors.”
The obituaries give a sense of the whole individual and their life. Part of the obituary of Robin Lee Skinner (Harmston) born in 1967, is such an example. It is from the point of view of her children:
“She made us smile and laugh with an infectious energy when no one else could. She cheered for us when we were young. And later, as adults, we cheered for her as she fought illness that came in many forms. Before cancer stole the life from her, addiction stole her from her life…from our lives.”
The INN Between has helped 87 people die with dignity in a home and not on the streets, and there have been at least 250 terminally or acutely ill homeless people served. The INN is particularly proud of five “miracle” cases of dying patients who regained their health.
The INN Between opened its current location about five years ago. The original location was on Goshen Street. Deborah Thorpe, a founder of The INN, was a nurse at Huntsman Cancer Institute and witnessed the problem of housing the homeless who were dying. An individual must have an address to receive hospice care.
Working at The INN is both rewarding and challenging. “You know, most people that are homeless are homeless because they struggle to get along in regular society and so sometimes the behaviors are difficult or there's difficult backgrounds that can be rough, but you know what? There's still a loving, caring person inside there that needs to have their life touched,” Ashby said.
“Every single person that didn't die on the streets of our city—that died here in a place where they were loved and comfortable—that’s why I do what I do.”
For Jillian Olmstead, operations director/events coordinator, it’s the little things that make her day. “Just a resident coming in and out of the front door and saying ‘hi’ to me in my office,” Olmstead said, “Unsolicited saying ‘thank you for everything you do’ and they have no idea what my role is.”
In addition to human lives saved, there are also animals saved as well. The INN has several in-house pets: two dogs, a cat and fish in a tank that adorns a living space.
Forthcoming additions to The INN include a nondenominational prayer space and the names of residents who passed away etched in stone in the Memorial Garden.
To learn more about The INN Between and volunteer opportunities, visit: www.tibhospice.org.