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Salt Lake City residents, leaders discuss homelessness in Liberty Park

Posted at 9:04 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 11:18:00-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Liberty Park is one of the staples of the salt lake community, but some in the community are becoming worried about the increasing number of homeless individuals making camp at the park.

"It’s great for running they have a little running trail” Don Tower, who lives near liberty park said. “It seems like a very family friendly park the aviary is there.”

He visits the park nearly every morning to walk his dogs and only lives a few blocks away and says more tents are starting to appear in the park and that has him and others we spoke to in the area worried.

“We had a nice park,” Tower said. “It's getting to the point where I feel like it’s not that nice that clean or that safe anymore.”

When our cameras visited the park Wednesday around 20 tents and makeshift shelters were in the park.

But it isn’t just about the amount of people who have started to use the park to live, according to Tower there has been an increase in problems like crime, trash, and drug use too.

Tower has even used the non-emergency line and app for the park to report the issues he’s seeing but hasn’t had much luck in city officials responding to the issues that he sees.

But it doesn’t end there, he has also seen an increase in crime around his community “We’ve noticed some break ins. Cars being rummaged through where people forget to lock their cars.”

Homelessness is a complicated issue and Mayor Mendenhall addressed that on Tuesday at a press conference with Chief of Police Mike Brown.

Read - Salt Lake City hiring more police officers, targeting repeat offenders in effort to reduce violent crime

When I asked about this topic in particular the Mayor said “I know from conversations that I have had with mayors and council members across this state who look me in the eye and tell me if we see someone experiencing homelessness in our community, we put them in the back of a cop car and drop them off at pioneer park. That has to stop.”

Also saying that other cities across the county and state need to take more of the share of Utah's homeless issue.

The city also started an initiative in early August to do targeted homeless enforcement that also added more bed space in the city.

But as the city has moved to break up more homeless encampments, that has also driven those in the camps elsewhere like liberty park.

“We knew that would happen” Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said Tuesday adding “when you relocate an encampment those that don’t take services or housing… they need to go somewhere.”

For Tower he knows this is a complicated issue by saying “I certainly feel for the homeless and I don’t know the solution and I don’t think anyone really does.” But thinks that “I think it's probably unsafe for the homeless… I think it’s unsafe for the park workers for just the average person who wants to go enjoy the park.”