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Homeless camp near Rio Grande Station cleaned up due to health concerns

Posted at 5:58 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 19:58:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The County Health Department cited health concerns as the reason why a homeless camp behind the Rio Grande Station was cleaned out Thursday.

“This accomplishes nothing man… I mean they could be doing something better with the money” said Johnathan Barker Bell, an individual experiencing homelessness. “Building affordable housing… I mean something productive instead of wasting time doing this, knocking down tents.”

Read: Homeless crisis increasing in Salt Lake City, resource centers ineffective

This clean up was planned several weeks ago and outreach has been ongoing to help those who were impacted to find resources and services to get COVID-19 vaccines and find places to relocate.

According to Mayor Erin Mendenhall,130 people were made placement offers to move into various facilities, of that 52 accepted offers to go to shelter, and four went to detox facilities.

In the group of individuals, two people were identified as being victims of human trafficking.

Dale Keller, Manager of the Salt Lake County Environmental Health Bureau says health concerns were the main reason for the clean up.

Read: Utah religious leaders call on governments to purchase underused hotels for the homeless

“The health department has a compelling [case] and also requirement to address those concerns,” he said.

The County Health Department says that the camp passed a threshold of being unhealthy.

“Its all about when we reach that kind of tipping point," Keller said. "We had certainly reached that with the amount of garbage here.”

Bell says he is ready to be off the streets, and has a job that will soon get him an apartment.

Read: Fourth Street Clinic begins mobile COVID-19 vaccinations for homeless population

“I am gonna get out of this mess,” he said.

Although he's got plans in the works, Bell worries about others there who are not so stable and will have to relocate to another area with shelters nearing capacity.

“You know they come back and they do it again…” He said about the on going cleanups. “You know I know how much money its costing… its costing a lot its costing too much man.”