SALT LAKE CITY — Clean up began Wednesday at a massive homeless camp near the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.
The tons of trash, debris, and hazardous waste will continue to be removed for at least the next few days at a site difficult to reach.
“This day, this kind of work isn't anybody's favorite work,” said Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Nicholas Rupp. “I don't think anybody on the health department team or any of our partners enjoy doing this work, but it's something we recognize that has to be done to protect our environment for all Salt Lake County residents.”
But the site isn’t new; in fact, according to the health department, it has been cleaned up eight times in the last 11 years. The county has no choice but to now go in and remove the trash, as well as the self-built structures.
If it were to continue, the county says that the waste would amount to a point where it's insurmountable and would affect the natural environment to a severe degree.
However, those who call the area their home say that they are frustrated about being moved, again.
“I think for everyone out here, I'm kind of used to it,” said Sidnee Collingwood, who had been camping at the site. “But it sucks bouncing around constantly. It’s stressful and overwhelming.
"It sucks not knowing where you're gonna go.”
Collingwood and her dog were packing up what they could carry as crews all around them worked to clean up what was left behind. But she recognizes the health hazard the camp poses.
“I've never seen this many people up here, and I've never seen this trashed. It definitely needed to be cleaned up,” said Collingwood.
The camp is on Victory Road, about a quarter of a mile from the Utah State Capitol, and was becoming very visible from the roadway and from homes all around.
“Legislators drive up this road to go to the Capitol and work and stuff, and they they see all this,” explained Collingwood. “It makes them not want to give more funding to you know, for resources and stuff when they see all this.”
Health officials have spent weeks preparing people for the clean up and Collingwood is one of those hoping to get housing. But many won't accept the help offered.
“Many of the folks living here are choosing to live outdoors; they're choosing to live outside our normal social system or social structure," said Rupp.
Crews will be working through the rest of the week, taking load after load. But as they work, one thing is clear, this is not a solution to the bigger problem.
“Cleaning up these environmental hazards on a periodic basis is not a solution to homelessness.” Rupp said. “It doesn't solve this societal problem we have in our in our community and many communities across the nation.”
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