NewsAll-Star Weekend

Actions

Protecting the homeless during All-Star Weekend is priority for advocates

Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 08, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — With just days before thousands come to Salt Lake City for the NBA All-Star Weekend, advocates of the area's unsheltered community are requesting funding and resources.

The visitors who will pour money into the local economy during the massive event also pose a risk to the homeless if they can't find safe environments, according to advocates.

“Because of the increase in tourism, I think there's going to be a big increase in policing, and as we know, our police population does not interact well with our homeless population," said Wendy Garvin, executive director of Unsheltered Utah.

The worry over over the increase in law enforcement is among other safety concerns.

“Human trafficking goes up quite quite significantly during these big public events,” added Garvin.

One expert said the NBA All-Star Game is the second largest sex trafficking event in the U.S. behind the Super Bowl, which is taking place this weekend in Phoenix.

“We don't want anybody exploiting folks down there who are unsheltered," explained Andrew Johnston, Salt Lake City's Director of Homeless Policy and Outreach. "We don't want them feeling like they're pressured to move unnecessarily and have no place else to go.”

Johnston has attended discussions with advocates to see what resources are needed for next week.

“They brought forward an offer for, I think the movie nights and that the church they're working with and the other providers did similar things about what we can offer to increase capacity,” he said.

Anywhere that those unsheltered can enjoy mild entertainment would be a help.

"Our hope is that folks will come inside and stay inside and take advantage of the resources that we offer them and, and stay safe,” said Garvin.

But where the money will come from to fund those resources is unclear.

“Right now, we're not planning on any city funds being used for this specific purpose," explained Johnston. "We're always discussing with the providers and other needs and trying to figure out because it's a long winter.”

State spokesperson Sarah Nielson said officials don’t have any contracts with advocacy groups and won’t be providing funding during the event. As for the county, officials say they’re still in preliminary discussions about what they can do to help.

“I think we'll always be able to provide services, but I would be very disappointed in the state and the county not stepping up after they asked us to plan and announced these services to be available for sure,” Garvin said.