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East High washroom and food facilities meeting needs over the summer

The washroom, pantry and other facilities at East High are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays during the summer months. Photo: Mary Richards

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah high school that has pioneered services for students who are homeless or in crisis is expanding that mission over the summer.

East High School’s food pantry, clothing boutique and washroom facilities will remain open through the summer for families in need. Senior Jasmin Colin-Rodriguez works there on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

“Ever since I was young, I have loved helping people,” she said, “and I know people who are less fortunate and who actually need help.”

She appreciates knowing the help is also discreet so no student needs to feel embarrassed.

“Just seeing them light up knowing they can have this, and they don’t have to worry, and I am not going to tell anyone — they are in a complete safe space,” she added. “Sometimes they are really hesitant, saying they don’t want to ask for anything more, but then I ask them if they want to see the hygiene closet or clothing boutique, just saying, ‘Let’s go take a look.’

“For example, there was a mom with five boys, and she took just one shampoo, but I said, ‘You can take more. Please take more.'”

She says when families realize there is no shame or guilt, they feel relieved.

The program provides things like food, soap, underwear, crisis backpacks and other supplies – plus access to facilities that include washers, dryers and showers.

Kris Barta, the student and family support coordinator, says any student or family in the Salt Lake City School District is eligible for assistance and access.

Colin-Rodriguez is paid through a partnership with Smith’s. Many other local businesses and groups also provide money and donations, such as hygiene supplies. All of them are listed at supporteasthigh.com, and the site also offers a link for members of the community to donate to the program.