OGDEN, Utah — With temperatures beginning to drop, a growing homeless encampment cleanup along 33rd Street in Ogden has some concerned.
“I was homeless at one point in my life and I made a promise to a loved one, my mother that I would make a difference when she was on her death bed and this seemed to fit in,” said Jimi Gilbrey, who stops by the encampment to deliver blankets, food and other necessities to those who call it home.
Residents in the encampment told Fox13 they were asked on Wednesday evening to pack up their items and move within 24 hours. Those with Ogden City, Ogden Police, Weber-Morgan Health Department and other organizations would not confirm the request.
However, those living along 33rd Street were seen packing up their belongings on Thursday afternoon, with many of them putting them along nearby Pacific Avenue.
“It was after dark when they approached us tent to tent and said that we must be out with all of our belongings cleared and removed permanently by noon,” said a woman named Val who told Fox13 reporter Brian Schnee that she has been homeless for 29 months. She would like to see more resources brought to those who call the encampment ‘home’ such as a restroom and other health resources.
However, the Lantern House, a resource center, is located next door to the large encampment. Those from the camp who spoke to Fox13 say that those living outside have either chosen not to go to the Lantern House, or are not permitted because of rules violations.
While those within the encampment were expecting to be removed from the area, no police or city workers were present throughout the day to physically remove any belongings.
According to Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, the city has been doing routine cleanups in the area for over a year. Caldwell says that they have been scaled back to once-per-week for health concerns during the pandemic.
Mayor Caldwell says one of the biggest concerns this time of year is the fires that are being started along the street at night.
Signs are posted along 33rd Street that indicate camping is prohibited, however, tents can be found the entire block from the entrance of the Lantern House to Pacific Avenue.
According to a press release from Ogden City, Police have received numerous calls regarding the camps:
- Aggravated assault, assault, and theft within the camp.
- Harassment of members of the public by camp members and deliberate damage to at least one vehicle driving down the street.
- Campfires in the public way, creating significant risk to persons in the camp as well as neighboring businesses, and requiring response by the Ogden Fire Department.
- Trespassing, vandalism, and thefts affecting neighboring businesses.
“Up to this point, Ogden City has taken a moderated approach during the pandemic. However, the situation has now become untenable,” the city said in a media release. “The size of the camp continues to grow, and the impact is being felt throughout the City. City crews are cleaning garbage and related debris regularly, exposing themselves to health risks as well as an occasional angry camp member.”