Massive clean-up effort underway at illegal homeless encampments in SLC

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SALT LAKE CITY – Human waste, garbage and drug paraphernalia—that’s what crews encountered during a massive clean-up of homeless encampments in Salt Lake City.

Crews rolled out trucks to remove 100,000 pounds of garbage from the foothills above Salt Lake City near Victory Road. It’s home to dozens of illegal homeless camping sites.

“We just find a lot of debris. A lot of bio hazards, environmental hazards, human waste, drug paraphernalia,” said Nicholas Rupp with the Salt Lake County Health Department.

This is an area of growing concern for law enforcement.

“In 2011, we actually saw more campers out here. But this has been an ongoing issue for quite some time,” said Detective Greg Wilking with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Officers rode on ATV’s to reach some of the smaller camps off the trail. Only trash is hauled off, no personal belongings.

“We’ve been notifying people, trying to get resources out to these people for the last several months, letting them know that this clean-up was coming,” Detective Wilking said.

Rex set up camp here months ago. He says he used to own a business but lost everything.

“I pick up scrap metal," he said. "Pick up clothes to sell them and trade. Whatever I have to do to survive.”

He says he doesn’t rely on public assistance and just wants to be left alone.

“They wanted us out of downtown, we went," he said. "What do we gotta do now, leave the state? This is ridiculous.”

Before the clean-up, social workers and police visited with folks to offer assistance with housing, social services and mental care.

“We want to make sure people who are living out of doors know there are resources available to them,” Rupp said.

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