LOCAL NEWS

Lawmakers Concerned About Increasing Homelessness In Rio Grande Area

Aug 6, 2020, 10:54 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Some state lawmakers are upset with the growing homeless encampments in the Rio Grande area, saying they want Salt Lake City officials to step in and use state funding they get to help these people get treatment and a place to live.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, worked on Operation Rio Grande.

“We used to have all of our shelters right here. And that was the problem they all congregated,” he said. “”Now we are starting to see people come back again. There is no patrol down here.”

Salt Lake City Police Department records show a significant drop in crimes in the last three years in the Rio Grande area. Up until July 1, Utah Highway Patrol troopers were stationed on the streets downtown. They left due to COVID-19 budget cuts.

“The numbers are down thanks to the state of Utah and the highway patrol. Now that we aren’t doing that anymore, let’s see what happens to the crime rates over the next six months,” said Ray.

Ray said he would like to see Salt Lake City police stationed there now, instead of just patrolling.

David Litvak with the mayor’s office explained during the Criminal Code Evaluation Task Force meeting that the police department has been pulled in different directions with COVID-19 and recent protests. They are focused on homelessness across the city.

“We were really cognitive to not disperse those encampments with the fear that they could spread COVID-19,” he said.

Ray’s fear is that those living in the encampment aren’t getting help for their personal struggles or illnesses. He hasn’t spoken directly to the mayor about his concerns, but he said he challenges her to step in and make a change.

“Don’t rely on state money. This is your area. This is an area that should be a priority to you. This doesn’t seem to be a priority to the mayor,” he said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall responded in a statement.

“I absolutely agree that homelessness is an increasingly pressing matter affecting people in Salt Lake City, including in the Rio Grande area,” she said in the statement. “There are many factors that contribute to this complex situation, from the county jail denying entry and expediting inmate releases and near-and-at capacity Homeless Resource Centers, to the state’s recent extraction of financial and public safety investments that were put into the Rio Grande area years ago, with an expectation of no change on our streets after their removal.”

She said homelessness is a statewide issue.

“Homelessness is a statewide issue; cities do not create homelessness, but they attract it.  Salt Lake City invests millions of dollars each year into homeless services, social workers, and housing stability. As a city, our primary role is to ensure public safety and this area is a priority. Our SLCPD officers work very hard to remove the criminal elements that prey on homeless populations, but their work is often for naught when the jail will not accept or hold individuals. State and county partners are critical to addressing the very real barriers of full HRCs and jail limitations,” she said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

A rendering of a cell site simulator. (KSL TV)...
Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox

Utah placed limits on police use of spy tech; Do they go far enough?  

For months, the KSL Investigators have been asking questions about spy technology law enforcement uses but doesn’t want to talk about. What exactly does the high-tech tool do, and what happens to your information if it gets caught up in a digital dragnet?
23 hours ago
...
Andrew Adams

USC/UCLA move to B1G leaves Utah college sports with uncertainty

USC  and UCLA, two flagship programs of the Pac-12 announced their intentions to leave their long membership with the Pac-12 to join the B1G, a power conference soon to sport universities from California to New Jersey.
23 hours ago
There are five kinds of rattlesnakes that populate Utah (DWR)...
Shara Park and Larry D. Curtis, KSL TV

Utahs experiencing close encounters of the rattlesnake kind

As you make plans to head to the great outdoors this holiday weekend, you may want to heed the warning about rattlesnakes.
23 hours ago
Follow @KSL_AlexCabrero...
Alex Cabrero

Utah survivor shares her story escaping sex trafficking

Board members of the Aspen Magdalene House in Salt Lake City organized this event and called it a “lunch and learn” with the goal of giving an overview of sex trafficking in Utah.
23 hours ago
...
Ladd Egan

Utah consumer sentiment falls in June; national survey falls to lowest level in 70 years

Frustrations over inflation sent consumer confidence in Utah and across the nation to new lows in June, according to surveys from the University of Utah
23 hours ago
FILE PHOTO - Shown are a smartphone and computer....
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Why you should stop using your work computers, phones for personal use

Many Utahns are still working from home, spending a lot of time on their work computers. That can make it easy to forget it's not a personal computer. But KSL's Matt Gephardt has three reasons why you should use your work computers for one thing — work.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Lawmakers Concerned About Increasing Homelessness In Rio Grande Area