Hundreds of needy Utahns get free holiday dinner

Posted at 5:09 PM, Dec 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-25 20:15:03-05

HOLLADAY, Utah - Around 1,000 homeless and needy Utahns are getting a holiday meal at St. Vincent de Paul School on Tuesday thanks to several charity groups.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness in Utah is up 13 percent despite a growing economy and dropping unemployment.

Homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson says that some of that increase is because more families are homeless and many Utahns are having to learn new skills to find jobs in this economy.

"We've had families come to the Road Home who have lost their jobs and went through six to nine months of savings and suddenly they're being evicted for not paying rent," Atkinson said.

Atkinson says that dinners like Tuesday's are a help because families in need get to enjoy steaks cooked by Grand America chefs, but they also get bags filled with toiletries, toys and clothes that can help them get through the holidays and the winter.

A new bill for next year may give businesses tax credits for hiring the homeless could be a big help to lowering homelessness in Utah.

"I've talked to some legislators about this and they need more information like on every issue. You have to do the education and show the pros and cons.  It was brought up last year, the ground work was laid and this year there will be much more intensity educating lawmakers," Atkinson said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated the steaks, chefs from Grand America cooked the dinners and around 75 volunteers from Catholic Community Services served them.