Christmas comes early for Utah's homeless population

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Utahns came together today to help Salt Lake's Fourth Street Clinic give the gift of good oral health.

"This is something just so dear to my heart," Bill Torma said.  He spent years on the streets before finding The Fourth Street Clinic.

"They really care," he said.  "I haven't seen a whole lot of that in my life."

For that reason he joined the clinic's consumer advisory board.

"The light bulb finally went off in my head and said you know what?  You are worthwhile. You can do something positive," Torma said.

Now he represents more than three thousand homeless Utahns and helps them get the services they need.

"Dental has been the big one," Torma said.  "Dental work, dental work, dental work.  There's people that are in pain out there 24-7."

Not anymore.

Thanks to a hefty donation from Alsco, a Utah based rental company for uniforms and linens, the clinic has its first dentst.

"Dental problems cause lot of health problems," Nancy Nowak said. 

As the chair for the clinic's board she says there is a huge need for dental care within Utah's homeless population. Right now, some state agencies are turning away more than 200 people a month for free services.  While the clinic is a welcome option for care, it will only make a dent.

"We're just going to open with one dentist and a dental assistant and four chairs," Nowak said.  "So the goal would be to obviously have more dental assistants and other dentists."

That would require thousands of dollars in additional funding.  Alsco pledged 625 thousand dollars over the next five years covering the clinic for at least 125 thousand a year starting in 2014.  To keep the program going, educators and volunteers plan to work for free  to give Utahns a fresh start.

"The whole fourth street clinic, they are just phenomenal people," Torma said.  "They are selfless."

Tis the season to be selfless and The Fourth Street Clinic is taking donations.  To help click here.  Several homeless men and women told ABC4 Utah dental work will boost confidence, enhance their appearance, and even help them get a job.

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