SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - “Operation Rio Grande” was launched by Utah State and Salt Lake City officials, and multiple law enforcement agencies Monday, August 14. It was described as a three-phase process.
Stage two, which includes providing assessment and treatment for those homeless people who are addicted to drugs and/or have behavioral disorders, is currently underway. Phase one rounded up people suspected of committing crimes in the area. Phase three will begin to help provide jobs for those looking for work.
Neighbors who live within a couple miles of the downtown Rio Grande area along 500 W. said they have seen what they describe as the “spillover” of homeless people who do not want help and just want to pitch their tents somewhere else.
“We’re seeing a lot more people just camping out now,” Mike Harman, a neighbor who lives near 1000 W. and South Temple said. “A lot (of homeless tents) in the parks over here at Madsen Park and Jordan River Parkway.”
Harman has lived at his home for 20 years and said he has always seen a few homeless people traveling along the roads there, but never so many people putting up their tents and living outside near his home.
“It's a little concerning because they're (the city and the state) moving them out of downtown but they are just ending up over here," Harman said. "There are a lot of needles around, a lot of human waste bags. There are people camping on the overpass and they're just throwing bags of waste down there. My dog got one the other day and I'm like ‘drop it drop it!”
A state and city official helping organize 'Operation Rio Grande' said each homeless person outside of those staying at the Road Home shelter will be reached out to by a social worker. They'll be offered treatment, behavioral health options, and resources to get them the help they need. However, the struggle is whether people want to take advantage of that help.
The Road Home Shelter tells Fox 13 News that they serve between 1,100 and 1,400 people nightly through all of their shelter programs, and they say they are consistently near capacity at those facilities, which include the Salt Lake Community Shelter, the Midvale Family Shelter, and the Winter Overflow Shelter when in use.
The group says the Salt Lake Community Shelter serves between 591 and 818 single men and single women each night.
The goal of 'Operation Rio Grande' was to clean 500 W. so that it did not appear dangerous for those who do want to seek help from the Road Home resources, but were too scared to venture into the area to get the help they need.
There is a website up for 'Operation Rio Grande' questions and concerns.
A community meeting for Poplar Grove is scheduled for Friday from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at St. Patrick Parish- Social Hall, located at 350 S. Goshen St. (1040 West), Salt Lake City. Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and other officials will be attending.