Phillips had a big heart for the homeless |

Phillips had a big heart for the homeless

Though best known for his folk music and storytelling, Utah Phillips also helped start the Hospitality House homeless shelter in Grass Valley.

He was present at the first meeting four years ago to form the shelter and regularly would show up to visit guests and play his guitar for them.

“He was immensely compassionate,” said Cindy Maple, head of the Hospitality House. “He seemed to understand what it meant to be lost and searching (and) not to have solid ground under one’s feet.”

Hospitality House continues to house 25 to 30 guests per night at churches throughout the area during the winter. A drop-in center opens in the spring and summer.

“When we sat down to talk about creating a hospitality house, we talked about works of mercy, we talked about compassion – not the social service model of working with clients and case loads and stuff like that – but of real hospitality,” he said in an interview two years ago.

Phillips has experienced a homeless shelter firsthand.

During a difficult period in his life, he spent some time at the Joe Hill House, a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City. It was operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, of the Catholic Worker movement.

“Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his ‘elders’ with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could employ to understand their own political and working lives,” said the obituary provided by his family.

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