October 11, 2020

A different story about homelessness and the Jordan River

A different story about homelessness and the Jordan River A different story about homelessness and the Jordan River A different story about homelessness and the Jordan River
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By Anne Terry

You may be familiar with the complex issue of unauthorized camping along the Jordan River. While that remains a topic that multiple entities are working to address, I want to share with you a new project in which people experiencing homelessness are enhancing the habitat of the Jordan River.

This year, Tracy Aviary and The Road Home moved into the same neighborhood in South Salt Lake. Tracy Aviary opened its new Jordan River Nature Center at 1125 W 3300 S, and The Road Home is operating the new Men’s Resource Center at 3380 S 1000 W. The two organizations quickly formed a partnership. Tracy Aviary is dedicated to making the Nature Center a place that is for all of its neighbors, including guests of the Resource Center.

We initially considered bringing a nature-focused lecture series to the Resource Center, but when the pandemic hit, it became apparent that we should pursue the safer option of outdoor activities. At the same time, Tracy Aviary was planning habitat restoration efforts to support birds, butterflies, and bees. This spring, through funding from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Tracy Aviary staff planted five native plant gardens along the Jordan River Parkway south of the Nature Center.

When asked if the guests of the Resource Center might be interested in helping care for the plants, The Road Home staff thought it was worth a shot. We set up a weekly schedule in which anyone at the Resource Center that morning could join us.

Our expectations have been greatly exceeded! With consistent support from Resource Center guests, the plants are thriving – and they’re not the only ones. The Road Home sends staff along each week, and walking the trail together affords them an opportunity to have individual conversations with the guests, getting to know them better, making them aware of the resources available, and offering words of encouragement. I have been fortunate to be there for it all. The guests I’ve met have inspired me with their resilience, kindness, and openness, and I am so glad they have caring professionals helping them navigate this time in their lives.

This is just the beginning. Tracy Aviary is excited to continue our partnership with The Road Home and to build more community partnerships. The current Jordan River Nature Center is a transition campus; we have big plans to bring more amenities to this site. The transition campus allows us to get to know our neighbors and their dreams for the Nature Center.

We are grateful for those who made the transition campus possible, including Salt Lake County, Granite School District, the State of Utah, the Jordan River Commission, Dominion Energy, and the Walbridge Fund. If you know of a community group we should connect with, contact us through our website, www.jordanrivernaturecenter.org.

Anne Terry is a Poplar Grove resident and works as the director of Tracy Aviary’s new Nature Center.