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Homeless camp relocates in Salt Lake City, just steps away from disbanded encampment

Posted at 10:37 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 08:55:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY-- Salt Lake City Police have disbanded a homeless camp that's been growing outside of The Leonardo museum in Downtown Salt Lake City. However, the people staying in the camp moved around the corner and set up in a different spot.

The children's museum reported seeing problems from those staying in the camp, including $10,000 in damages from a shattered window.

On Wednesday evening, police officers walked up and down 500 South between 200 and 300 East, forcing people to tear down their tents.

“They told us all the leave. So, I went to the shelter,” Nathon Christian said. He appeared to be one of the few to head to the shelter.

On Thursday, some of the camps remained along the road. The rest of the encampments migrated to Library Square, just steps away from 500 South.

Many said they don’t want to go to the shelter, citing reasons like bedbugs, crime and dirtiness.

“They're probably in the same boat I am,” Christian said. “They have nowhere to go, nowhere to put their stuff.”

He said he hid his belongings, so he could return to them. Many of the others out there have amassed too much to take with them.

Nikita Casner tore her tent down but stayed in her spot along the road. She said it’s a constant battle with police.

“I'm stubborn, I won't do it,” she said, about leaving the area. “When I’m cold, I'm cold. I'm not moving.”

Even if she did move, Casner explained she has nowhere to go.

“I plan on staying here. Or I'm just going to go somewhere else and go through the same old routine-- the cops bothering us,” she said.

It’s a cycle that Bernie and Marita Hart have watched for the past two years. They run the homeless outreach and mental health-focused nonprofit, Understanding Us.

The couple works with many of those experiencing homelessness downtown. Bernie Hart said while a large portion of the world sees the drugs and trash lying around, they see something different.

“I see a community-- an active, active real community with respect for each other where they watch out for each other,” he said.

Nikita Casner laughed and made jokes as she interacted with those she’s come to know as her community.

For police, when being part of the community includes violating the camping ordinance and – for some, drug use and criminal activity— they act.

Both Casner and Christian said they understand the laws, and why the public might be concerned with camping and possible drug use next to a children’s museum.

The two said they don’t feel there’s any other options.

“We're not bad people,” Christian said. “We're just trying to survive. That's all we're doing.”