SALT LAKE CITY — A homeless encampment known as ‘Camp Last Hope’ is being shut down by the Salt Lake City officials on Thursday. The encampment, under an overpass near 900 South and 500 West in downtown Salt Lake City, was started late last year by community organizers.
For about four years, Robert Smith has been experiencing homelessness. He heard about ‘Camp Last Hope’ and was optimistic about a new place to live.
“We showed up yesterday and were basically told as soon as we got our tent up, that we had to take it down,” he said.
"We have not seen an encampment quite like this in the city before," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.
City officials believe solving homelessness is not a "quick fix" issue.
“I think homelessness is the most complicated issue that our city and frankly capital cities across the country are facing. There’s not enough resources, there’s not enough partnership generally speaking,” Mendenhall said.
Camp Last Hope in downtown SLC is being closed down and will be cleaned up this week. There are people here offering resource to those who will be impacted. This homeless camp was set up over a month ago on private property. pic.twitter.com/w7WrBwnzs4— Sydney Glenn (@SydneyGlennTV) February 3, 2021
Smith says it's difficult to find stability and build a better life since he constantly has to pack up and move.
“We aren’t here because we choose to be or because we want to be, we do want a better life, we do want a home, hell, I’d even want to raise a family but I don’t see it happening in my near future,” he said.
For weeks, city leaders and community organizers have been working on a plan for how to best close the camp and when.
The camp is located on private property and the property owners came to the city to ask for help, Mendenhall explained. City leaders made sure the people living at the encampment had plenty of notice prior to the shut down.
The city has been hosting a resource fair for several days at the encampment to help connect people experiencing homelessness to resources.
“People who are there, which was at last point in count last week about 20 people, are able to connect with resources whether that’s housing, shelter, detox or mental health needs, they can even be COVID tested or resolve issues with the justice courts,” she said.
NO MORE CAMPING: what has become known as Camp Last Hope in SLC is being shut down this week. Today, homeless campers are being asked to move before the area is cleaned to tomorrow. @slcmayor @SaltLakeHealth @slcCouncil @fox13 pic.twitter.com/WBoMy54N8P— Sydney Glenn (@SydneyGlennTV) February 3, 2021
“We aren’t all wasted space. We aren’t here to just waste the space on earth, we are trying to better our lives,” he said.
Smith recently got an I.D. and hopes to find a job soon so he can afford a place of his own. He also plans to utilize the resource fair set up by the city to possibly help him get his drivers license back.