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Salt Lake Man Invites Homeless Into Yard, Calls On City To Do More

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A man said he grew upset watching the homeless being pushed from neighborhood to neighborhood in recent months, so he opened up a space for them in his front yard.

“In the middle of January we started up this unsheltered camp to help people struggling with homelessness,” said Darin Mann, who also grows produce on the property for the surrounding community under his non-profit, The Village Cooperative. “It’s been going great so far!”

Mann said he has room on the lawn for up to 15, and multiple tents were spotted on the property Monday.

“That was pretty intense when I had 15 people here, so I think 10 is the sweet spot,” Mann said.

Mann said unsheltered campers have to abide by rules on the property, including no drugs and no violence.

“Or you’re out!” Mann added. “One-strike policy!”

Clean-up efforts in recent months conducted by health workers and escorted by police have been among the reasons homeless campers have relocated—sometimes multiple times.

Michael and Brandy Najera said they had previously stayed near 700 South and Main Street and then 500 South and 1100 West before moving next to Mann’s house.

They said they had been faring pretty well at the new location.

“We actually quit our addictions here,” Brandy Najera said. “It’s been a blessing.”

Mann said he has been frustrated by the city’s and government agencies’ approach to an ongoing homeless crisis in Salt Lake City.

“The city response has just been to push and move unsheltered people around the city,” Mann said. “They lose a lot of their possessions. Any kind of stability they had is gone.”

In a statement, the Salt Lake City mayor’s office said “the issue of homelessness and the pathways out of it are complex.”

“Salt Lake City’s priority is our ongoing work connecting people with the services that exist and create a pathway into permanent housing,” the statement read.

An official with Salt Lake City Police Department said officers were aware of what was happening outside of Mann’s home, but if anything it was a matter for health officials unless anything happened on the property that would require a police response.

Mann said he had been given until Feb. 5 to clean up the camp and then was subsequently given an extension until Feb. 19.

Mann said he doesn’t intend to have an unsheltered camp forever in the yard, but he hoped there were better solutions in general to address the ongoing homeless crisis and specifically there was perhaps a space or land that the city could donate to the homeless to help the situation.

“I’m fed up with the performance of our mayor, and so I’m kind of showing her I can do it on my house, why can’t you do it with all of your city funds — when are you going to do something about it?” Mann said. “If she wants to work with the state and other cities — because I do feel the city is unduly burdened with our homeless crisis — then she should reach out to different non-profits that are doing this work so that we can talk to the legislature. Right now we’re in a session and we can find that solution.”

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