Lt. Governor tours progress of Operation Rio Grande

Jun 25, 2018, 7:08 PM | Updated: 9:17 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Nearly a year after Operation Rio Grande started, the crime rates and overall numbers of the homeless population in the area have gone way down. Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, however, reiterated that there was still a lot of work to be done.

Qhvian Thrower (left) talks with Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox at Pioneer Park Monday.

Stepping into Pioneer Park with a number of aides and law enforcement Monday, Lt. Governor Cox greeted several homeless people. Some offered little reply, other than a handshake, while several others said, “thanks.”

“I just had three people stop me and thank me because they’re getting treatment. They’re getting help,” Cox said. “That’s been the most rewarding part.”

Qhvian Thrower was among those who took the opportunity to talk with Cox. He says he’s noticed a significant change in the area.

“It would be a dump site out here, and we don’t have that anymore,” Thrower said. “I see a lot more kids out here and families coming out here to play again, which is really cool.”

Thrower did, however, tell Cox that there was one area where he would like to see a lot of improvement.

“One of the issues we have out here is the mental health of individuals,” Thrower said.

He added that some people who appeared to need significant help with mental issues, seem to have nowhere to go.

Linda Christensen (center) is greeted by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox at Pioneer Park.

Linda Christensen was just coming out of homelessness after three years and also spoke with Cox.

“I just feel a lot safer,” Christensen said. “They’ve cleaned up the drugs here a lot.”

Cox said that the efforts in the months ahead will still be focused on getting people employed and into housing. He also added that cracking down on crime in the area continues.

“The first part of this was getting the bad guys out of here, and some of the bad guys are going to other places,” Cox said. “So we’re going where they are.”

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Lt. Governor tours progress of Operation Rio Grande