OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – Two ladies in Ogden brave the weather come sunshine, rain, or more recently snow in order to help bridge the gap between the needs of the homeless population and the services of the police department.
They work as homeless services advocates for the Ogden City Police Department. Their work brings multiple agencies together to humanize the homeless population in Ogden while working to get them back on their feet.
“We got you approved for an apartment!” Anna Davidson exclaimed. Her work partner, Nancy Griggs, quickly followed shouting, “Yay!” They were talking to a man on speakerphone. It was a phone call that could warm one’s heart on the cold day it was turning out to be.
Anna Davidson and Nancy Griggs start their day at the homeless services advocate office in the Ogden Police Department before heading out to brave the icy weather. “What we do is kind of a street outreach approach in an individual capacity,” Davidson explained.
Five days a week, Ogden residents may run across Davidson and Griggs, along with two police officers, at different locations around the city. They are often spotted at public parks contacting people who are homeless or facing homelessness.
Chester Norwood Jr. recently became acquainted with the two public servants. As snow fell outside, he and his wife pulled up to a curb outside an apartment building where Davidson and Griggs were waiting. After exchanging hugs, it was time for the Norwoods to tour their new apartment.
“Today is a blessed day for me and my wife thanks to these young ladies right here,” Mr. Norwood told ABC4. “It would have never happened without them.”
During the aforementioned phone call, a voice responded to the announcement made by Davidson. “I’m going to go outside (followed by a pause) and jump for joy.” That voice belonged to Chester Norwood.
He and his wife were losing their home. “We’ve been striking out,” he added. Norwood was recently injured and cannot work for the time being. After many failed attempts at finding affordable housing things were beginning to look grim.
He told ABC4 his wife heard about the police department’s program and reached out to the two advocates.
“Within, I don’t even think it was 24 hours, and here we are today,” Norwood stated. Norwood spoke to ABC4 right after he and his wife signed their new lease. One could almost see their shoulders rise as if a weight had been taken off them.
This is part of what makes the hard work worth it for both Davidson and Griggs. “It’s the small wins,” Griggs stated. “It’s the little things. It’s the excitement that somebody gets on their face when they get housing, or they get their I.D., or they get their birth certificate.”
Those small wins are just a small part of what Davidson and Griggs do to help solve the problem of homelessness in the city.
“We’re looking at the root cause,” Davidson explained. “We’re looking at trauma (that may have led to homelessness and/or mental health issues), and then we’re trying to identify the different subsets of individuals within the homeless population. And then, (we) work to connect them to the resources that are going to be the most successful.”
During winter storms, like the two that pummeled Ogden in less than a week, the women work to get people into shelters, so they don’t freeze to death. Then they can start the long process of getting them back on their feet. One may think that getting an apartment or home is the end goal, but even then, the work isn’t finished.
“They’re stuck in that mentality of being homeless for so long that once we get them housed, that’s when the real work begins,” stated Griggs. “Case management plans come in and we definitely continue to follow up with them.”
Davidson added: “Let’s be real, if you’ve been homeless for 25 years and you get housed, you don’t know how to be in there. You don’t know how to do that, so we just encourage them, and keep them going, and talk to them, and communicate with them, and show them that they can be loved.”
All this work, the duo told ABC4, is about looking at homelessness differently to help lift up the entire community.
The program started two years ago. It’s been so successful that the police department hired Nancy Griggs as a second advocate about two months ago.