SLC Businessman says homeless problems in his neighborhood worst since Operation Rio Grande
Aug 18, 2023, 10:28 PM | Updated: Aug 19, 2023, 2:12 pm
SALT LAKE CITY—A business owner said Friday homeless problems in his neighborhood were the worst he had seen since before Operation Rio Grande as city officials acknowledged the effects of a larger homeless population statewide were being noticed downtown.
Scott Evans said business at Euro Treasures Antiques, 470 West 600 South, was potentially off as much as 60 percent while the homeless population in the area was soaring.
“Down here we are under siege,” Evans told KSL 5 as he stood near 600 South and 500 West. “When I got in this morning on this block in the median, I counted 38 individuals.”
Evans said in addition to illegal camping, he had witnessed more concerning behaviors of open-air drug use, defecation, and even outdoor sexual activity among the homeless population and he said some individuals seemed to have a tendency toward violence.
“It’s really gotten crazy,” Evans said. “I got physically attacked at the store by a woman who was on methamphetamine and just started going crazy on me, started swinging at me, and spit all over me.”
According to Evans, garbage had piled up to disturbing levels in only a matter of days and there were also multiple human feces and discarded drug paraphernalia visible within feet of the business.
He hoped the city would step in with more stringent measures, including a zero-tolerance policy for illegal camping.
“I think a lot of folks in the neighborhood, in the city, have seen for the first time, or maybe not in their recent memory, more people camping or outside than they have before,” said Andrew Johnston, director of homelessness policy and outreach under the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office.
He acknowledged the effects of a larger unsheltered population statewide were being felt around the city.
Johnston maintained police and outreach teams were responding in a timely manner and urged people to report problems when they see them.
“If you don’t have the Salt Lake City mobile app on your phone, download that for free and report it to us,” he said.
Johnston said shelters had been operating around 98 percent capacity for several months and the real need is affordable or transitional housing close to services. He said more would be coming online in the fall.
He also said city leaders were working to formalize a plan and location or locations for sanctioned camping in the city, but he was indefinite about the timetable.
Evans said he believed many of those hanging around his business weren’t the kind to seek housing, something Johnston said may well be the case.
“There are folks who are not open right now to what’s available, but we’ll keep working with them,” Johnston said. “What we found a couple winters ago during (COVID-19) was almost everybody was willing to go inside to the right place, but we just haven’t had enough of those options in the last two years.”
Evans said the issues were taking a toll on a number of businesses around the city, and he was just doing his best to make it through the summer.
“I can’t wait, you know—I can’t just keep sucking wind here,” Evans said. “We need help.”