Neighbors say homeless population growing just down road from Utah State Capitol

Apr 19, 2018, 11:52 PM | Updated: Apr 20, 2018, 12:51 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — It’s a lesser-told story of Salt Lake City’s homeless population, but it’s growing harder for neighbors to ignore it.

Homeless camps within walking distance of the Utah State Capitol appear to be expanding, according to neighbors, and aerial video from Chopper 5 showed dozens of transients Thursday occupying the hillside above Victory Road.

Resident Mike Bennett said he believed the population across the street and down the road from his house had increased since Operation Rio Grande.

“When we dispersed everyone from there, we saw a lot more here in our neighborhood,” Bennett said.

Problems seemed to increase as well.

Other neighbors told KSL about property disappearing, other property of unknown origin appearing, garbage being left behind, and security light sensors continually going off at night.

“You know, I have two grandkids that live with us, and there are some kids in the neighborhood, and, you know, I get nervous about that—strangers coming around,” Bennett said.

Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer said homeless on Utah’s Capitol Hill are nothing new.

“We talked to one individual who had been in the area for over seven years,” Shearer said.

Still, Shearer acknowledged the ranks of the homeless were growing in the area.

“As people drive by the area, they may notice there was starting to get a large collection of trash and other unsanitary things,” Shearer said.

Shearer said the department and Salt Lake County health workers have been concerned about health conditions in the camps, and they visited the area within the past two weeks to conduct a clean-up, and to try to connect the homeless with services that could help them.

“As part of that, the health department came out and was offering vaccinations to some of those people,” Shearer said. “We want to try and move them toward that direction — to know that they don’t need to live in that kind of environment.”

Shearer said several homeless people declined services, essentially telling workers they didn’t want the help.

As police have conducted their regular patrols, neighbors said they have seen movement—of more homeless moving into the area.

“I think it’s kind of like a cat-and-mouse game,” Bennett said. “It seems like it’s just an ongoing process of movement on their part, and then different neighbors like ours get affected by it.”

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Neighbors say homeless population growing just down road from Utah State Capitol