Volunteers of America respond as homeless population shifts to other areas in SLC

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Complaints from businesses and a growing number of events have kicked the homeless campers out of Pioneer Park, but now those experiencing homelessness are flocking to other areas of the city.

Over the past month, more and more homeless people have been crowding a strip of grass along 500 West.

The Volunteers of America noticed this and have been out in the area working to find out why so many people are going there and not seeking out services.

"The only reason I came out here is cause I got nowhere to go," said Michael Stidle, who has been homeless for months.

Stidle has been spending his days on a strip of grass behind the Rio Grande in Salt Lake City. He said each week more and more people set up camp in the area.

"You go down here and look on the sidewalk, every sidewalk, it's crowded because there are people over there sleeping--ya just can't go nowhere," Stidle said.

That's why the VOA coordinated an outreach program this week, to find out why this area is attracting the homeless and what they can do to help.

"It was just noticeable, we thought: 'Boy, this is a difference from what we've typically seen' and we wanted to get a handle of what was going on," said Rob Wesemann, who is a Division Director of Homeless Services for VOA.

After interviewing dozens of people camping, they found the majority of the homeless don't know what services are available.

"We would like to get them somewhere safe, so we can engage and figure out what the solution is rather than just get stuck out here," Wesemann said.

But some of the homeless said they stay away from the shelters because they don't feel safe there and can't get the real help they need.

"You look at their side and you wonder: 'Well, what can they do?' I don't know. Someone needs to come up with some answers, because I think it's going to get worse before it gets better,'" said Todd Dennis, who has been homeless on and off for two years.

In the meantime, the VOA said they will work to get more resources and help the people individually.

Wesemann said: "We want to follow-up, we followed up [Thursday], we continue to follow-up--getting people accessing services, talking to people about, 'What are your resources that you have available in the community?' And really working with them to kind of get things moving and get them safe."

For more information about the Volunteers of America in Utah, the resources they provide and the ways you can help: visit their website.

6 comments

  • Beccabby73

    The Mormon church holds Billions of Dollars, stand up and do something. Be freakin Christian.the complaining businesses should help, instead of acting ENTITLED. The Homeless can’t just disappear people. They are living breathing human beings. God forbid one day one of those entitled folks end up Homeless, then you will see what it is like.
    Give your tithing to people who need help, not that uncharitable church.

    • f4denz

      The LDS Church (I am not a member) does a ton of work to help the homeless and less fortunate here in Salt Lake, however a good number either refuse to their conditions (like working to get help, or rules at shelters) or simply refuse any help other than someone giving them money. I have watched some of the same people panhandling downtown for the last 3 years or longer, in part because so many will give them money.

      I spent almost two years working with the under-privileged and homeless in Seattle and am amazed by how many programs and support options exist here in Salt Lake. If a homeless person wants to get off the streets and back into “normal” society there are few places in the US where that is easier than in Salt Lake. A lot of these folks choose to be homeless, or chose to continue to be homeless by refusing to deal with either their mental health or drug/alcohol issues, it is a shame both for them and for society in general. To try to blame the LDS church for the problem is simply wrong, they are not at fault for it.

    • Ron

      haha how the hell did you go from homeless people to mormons??? sounds like you have a personal vendetta with the mormons! the catholics have lots of money to, some evangelist also have lots of money and pay their pastors good amounts of it, why not include them too? The issue isn’t with mormons or religion, its that being homeless is easy. all they do is sit out there with a sign and collect tax free money for whatever they want to spend it one…..food, alcohol, drugs, hookers…you get the idea i hope. All the churches in the SLC area contribute services to help the homeless that want to go back to normal, you just need to abide by their rules to get those resources. I think the state can follow that example and have the aid be conditional…….you want free food and board? pass a drug test and take a money management course.

    • Finny Wiggen

      Becca you sound like a fool!

      You have the LDS Church giving literally hundreds of millions of dollars, and its members volunteering dozens of hours each per year volunteering. They grow crops, they can them, the produce beef, and on and on and on. All of which they literally give away for free to those in this and many other communities around the world who needs it…

      And you say “they should do something…”
      As I said you sound like an absolute fool!

      Incidentally, when was the last time you spent hours in a hot factory volunteering to make food for the homeless? My last time was a few weeks ago… but then that is how we mormons roll…

  • BECCABBY73

    I’m sorry for my remarks…I’m so fat and dumb. I can’t stand my own stench so I take it out on innocent people because I’m a hateful bigot.

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