Business leaders donate $100k in fight against homelessness

Salt Lake City— Two Utah business leaders are giving back this holiday season in an effort to be a part of the solution for rising crime rates and an increased homeless population. David Ibarra and K.O. Murdock announced a $100,000 donation today to The Other Side Academy in support of its program and students. They say the philosophy of the Salt Lake City non-profit is a creative approach to criminal justice reform that has seen tangible results.

“You have already committed to an investment in yourself and that’s why we’re investing in you,” David Ibarra told students. “You are worth it. Everybody’s worth it. We’re all connected and the mission you’re on to improve your life, improves my life.”

The personal contributions are in direct response to what Ibarra says is a growing problem, without a working solution. David ran for Salt Lake City Mayor in 2019 and most recently moderated the Pioneer Park Coalition’s Utah Public Safety Summit.

“We can’t keep talking about these things. We all need to jump in and contribute what we can – whether it be resources or expertise – to address what’s happening in a meaningful way,” David said.

The Other Side Academy, which was established in 2015, is a residential 2 ½ year program for those who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The Academy is a training school where students learn pro-social, vocational and life skills allowing them to emerge with a healthy life on “the other side.” Academy students have been arrested an average of 25 times and 90% have been homeless at some point.

At today’s event, current student Taylor Gleave shared his story of addiction and constant search for the easiest path in life. After five stints in rehab, he found The Other Side Academy which he says “completely saved his life.” Taylor has developed confidence in his potential for a new beginning through hard work and doing things the hard way.

“Being here now two and a half years and getting close to the time when I transition back into society, I know that it will work because I have put the work in, it hasn’t been given to me,” Gleave said.

In addition to learning fundamental personal management and relationship skills, students work at The Other Side Movers or The Other Side Thrift Boutique to contribute to the Academy’s bottom line. Following graduation, 70% are employed and maintain a drug- and crime-free life.

“For those whose circumstances have led to decades spent in the criminal justice system, the solution has to be as large as the problem,” said Josephy Grenny, Chairman of the Board of The Other Side Academy. “Support from the broader community gives more opportunity for our students to achieve success.”

The donation will be put towards the renovation of a neighboring building that’s being turned into additional living space for students.

“This doesn’t just go into creating a scholarship for a couple students to come here. This creates a place where for years and years to come, students will be able to arrive and change their lives and have a shot at a different kind of future,” Grenny said.

“Leadership requires action and coming together can change lives,” said K.O. Murdock. “I love to be associated with a culture that makes such a big difference in our community and our state”