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‘Clean-up’ of camps at SLC Library Square leaves homeless feeling harassed, neighbors grateful

Posted at 5:47 PM, Dec 10, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Law enforcement removed dozens of people camping near Library Square in Salt Lake City during an organized “clean up” Tuesday.

On Monday, the Salt Lake County Health Department posted signs warning that the city’s anti-camping ordinance would be enforced.

One block away from the park in which they were camped, Meghan Ortiz reorganized her things.

“I know that we are an eyesore, but try to have some compassion,” Ortiz said before wiping a tear from her eye.

Almost daily, the campers get booted off both private and public property.

“I do not enjoy getting woken up by police telling us that we have to pack up and leave at the crack of dawn when it’s freezing cold and everything is wet,” Ortiz said.

Homeless advocates rush to collect items left behind before they’re confiscated by the health department.

“It’s like they’re trying to catch us off guard. Yeah, it is a type of harassment, I think,” Joe Petersen said.

In recent years, more than $100 million went to homeless services to get people off the streets. Three new homeless resource centers are open and yet, people are out in the cold.

“Every time they said there was room, I came here, to the Wiggins Center or the new one, I got turned away. It’s overfull,” Ortiz said.

The Department of Workforce Services told FOX 13 News that’s not true. In December, occupancy rates at the centers averaged around 92 percent.

“We haven’t had a single night where every single bed has been full,” said Jonathan Hardy with the Department of Workforce Services.

“I’d rather take my chances out here. At least I have people out here who can watch my stuff,” Petersen said.

After the clean-up, neighbors thanked law enforcement for removing the homeless.

“It is a public park. People want to bring their little kids here and they’ve quit doing that because of the people who are here,” Dennis Swenson said.

However, Ortiz’s group said they’ll be back.

“A lot of times, we just don’t know what to do,” Ortiz said.