Ogden city leaders seek solution to keep transients off elementary school grounds after several complaints

OGDEN, Utah – A homeless shelter near an elementary school is posing some challenges for students. Administrators at Odyssey Elementary are worried about their safety as they walk to and from school.

A year ago, the Lantern House opened just a few blocks away from Odyssey Elementary School. Since then, administrators say many transients pass through their school every day putting their students and staff in harm’s way.

“An older Ogden School District student being in the park and having a lewd act occurred and resulted in an arrest. That was a very horrible situation that has impacted students,” said Leanne Rich, Odyssey Elementary School Principal.

The school sits adjacent to a city park, a place where the homeless hang out according to school administrators. Police have stepped up patrols after receiving numerous complaints.

“We had two incidents that were documented where individuals came onto the school grounds, frightened the children, or disrupted the children’s activities. That’s something we don’t want to see during the school day,” said Lt. Tim Scott with the Ogden police.

The challenge is that the park is an open area. But the Ogden School District has an agreement with city leaders to use the playground and soccer fields during school hours. They’ve posted signs but people aren’t getting the message.

The next best option is to build a fence around the playground so kids are protected during school hours and the public can still use the park.

Mark Johnson, Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer, said they’ve worked with Jennifer Canter, the Lantern House Director. She did not return calls to FOX 13, but Johnson says Canter has tried to rectify the situation.

Johnson said with a growing homeless population, they’re doing everything they can to provide services and protect the public.

“Our hope is to come up with some other solutions. We’ve noticed a huge increase in homeless. We’re not to the Salt Lake City level yet, but we talked to our county commissioners recently and said we need to start looking at the problem,” Johnson said.