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Helper shelter continues with mission

John Fazzio

Sun Advocate reporter

The name may have changed, but the services offered by the former Golden Rule Mission are staying the same for now.

Ownership of the shelter changed hands officially July 1 and is now known as Avalon House.

Along with the new moniker, the facility also has a new director to oversee day-to-day operations.

"The La Porte Group has taken over and they've hired a local person to run it," said Lloyd Pendleton, director of the Utah Homeless Task Force.

John Fazzio, 29, a resident of Spring Glen and manager of the Helper Handy Mart, was hired to oversee the facility's operations, thrift store and housing.

"I am working on getting the store going again and the soup kitchen," explained Fazzio.

He said the thrift store and soup kitchen will continue for an indefinite period of time and really need donations.

Fazzio said there are about 10 open beds at Avalon House. The original policies on admission to the facility are currently still in place.

"I will enforce really firm rules," stressed Fazzio. "No one who is on drugs or is drinking will be admitted."

In addition, Fazzio has kick started Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and a local pastor is coming in twice a week to conduct church services.

Avalon House is also partnered with Positive Action Community Team, a 501C-3 Green River-based organization that will serve as the non-profit filter for donations.

Fazzio said he did not know how long Avalon will continue to function like its predecessor, but said the owners plan to do the work on a second property in Price first. The Newhouse Hotel will become long term affordable housing units under the owners' plans.

"When things will change is basically up in the air," said Fazzio.

Ben Logue, the developer from La Porte who brokered the deal with state to purchase the building, has been sharing his long term plans since the beginning of the year.

The traditional shelter will become 32 single occupancy rooms, each with a bathroom, and Logue said he plans to sink $2 million into renovations of the building.

Since Logue first started the negotiations, the shelter had come under fire from Helper's downtown business community who blamed residents for several unsavory incidents, including a rape threat.

In March, business owners came en mass to the city council meeting and voiced their concerns. Their comments raised questions about the management of the shelter at the time.

As it turned out, the former Golden Rule was in a state of transition. Longtime director Barbara Daugherty resigned and a board member who played a significant role in the facility had been hospitalized.

At a city council meeting in April, Logue indicated that he had met earlier in the day with business owners and heard their concerns.

Once Avalon House is finished, Logue said there would be two levels of management - one for facility and a case manager on hand to help residents transition back into society.

He also said extensive criminal background checks will be conducted on anyone who will reside at Avalon House.

The developer added that a new security system with cameras would be installed at the building and the residents would be required to adhere to a strict rules as well as regulations.

Pendleton, who has been working closely with Logue, was also on hand at the Helper City Council meeting in April. He was candid with residents about the changes that were in store once the building is renovated and converted.

He told the crowd in attendance at the meeting that anyone getting off the train expecting emergency shelter would have to be put right back on.

However, Pendleton indicated that the state will provide information to Avalon House about other homeless shelters in Salt Lake City where people can be referred.

The Avalon House is on Main Street in downtown Helper.

Carbon County residents wishing to donate items to the thrift store or seeking more information about the facility may contact Fazzio at 472-2631.

The AA meeting will be from 7 to 8 p.m. on Fridays.

Meals will be served at the facility at 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. daily.

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