‘Safe Space Courtyard’ in Rio Grande district requires ID card for entry

SALT LAKE CITY - Starting Monday, homeless people will need identification cards if they want to access an area known as the "Safe Space Courtyard."

The space sits on Rio Grande Avenue between the Road Home and Catholic Community Services. A sign on the fenced-in area warns no drugs, weapons, violence, etc will be allowed inside.

Additionally, drug-sniffing dogs and security cameras will be added to ensure the safety of those inside.

Those inside the Safe Space Courtyard will have access to special programs and referral services in the future as well. To get in, however, you'll need an identification card, and you'll need to take a picture and give a thumb print to get one.

"The rumors are going around," said Linda Velasquez, who's homeless and using the resources near the Road Home. "The first one is that they are going to do background checks."

However, Jonathan Hardy with Workforce Services says that will not be the case.

"There's no background checks associated with it," he reassures. "It's used to issue an assessment so we can determine how to help these people."

Velasquez said even if background checks were being done, she wouldn't care.

"You got a warrant, handle it," she said. "I did. I went to jail, and I dealt with it."

Velasquez sits in a wheelchair. A combination of tragic events within just two years led her to her circumstances, but now she's getting her life together and hopes the latest phase of Operation Rio Grande will continue to keep bad influences away.

"I feel it's security," she said.

Bill Tibbitts with the Crossroads Urban Center has mixed feelings about the ID cards.

"It's one thing to say we want to know who's coming into this space," he said. "It's another thing to say we'll punish you if you don't give us your fingerprints."

Tibbitts is referring to special services that might be provided inside the Safe Space Courtyard for those willing to give fingerprints.

Officials with Operation Rio Grande say those who don't want ID cards can still access the shelter and food at the Road Home.