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Salt Lake homeless camp cleaned out due to unsafe health conditions

Posted at 10:23 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 00:23:45-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A large homeless camp in Salt Lake City was removed by the county health department Thursday.

The camp was located on 700 West under the ramp to Interstate 15 from 500 South. The health department started at around 10 a.m. and finished around 4 p.m.

According to health officials, around 100 tons of trash, debris, and possessions were taken by truck from the site.

“When you have garbage, trash, feces, needles, and all of the other things that happen when people live without appropriate housing, that builds up,” said Dale Keller, General Manager of Salt Lake Valley Environmental Health.

Those living at the site were not happy about the clean-up and are unsure where to go next.

“The only reason we did this is that there was nowhere for us to go. As couples as families, there are no available shelters,” said Stacy Johnson, one of the leaders of the camp. “We don't want to be in the public view 24 hours a day bearing its shame...This is to me is robbery. This is a crime what's happening to us!”

Others like Wendy Garvin, the President and Executive Director of Unsheltered Utah, are also not happy about the clean-up.

“We're a little frustrated with that because this is a really good location for a camp,” Garvin said. “There's almost no commercial business back here. There's no residence so there's no there's nobody to complain.”

The Health Department confirmed that they held off on moving this specific camp longer than normal because they wanted to make sure enough beds were available for those at the camp.

“We confirm this morning, there were over 100 beds available,” Keller said. “We have a pretty high resource resistive group. Fifteen or twenty years ago, we just didn't see unsheltered people during the winter.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall offered a statement expressing that while homelessness is not a crime, some camps can cause serious health and safety risks.

“We have a responsibility to our residents–housed and unhoused–and businesses to ensure that public spaces are safe, clean and accessible. Homelessness is not a crime, but some camps can and do present serious health and safety risks to those living in them and the public at large.” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement adding “We rely on our partners at the Salt Lake County Health Department to determine when a camp poses a risk to health and safety and needs to be abated. Our outreach team, public services, and police departments provide supportive services to ensure that the abatement proceeds in a manner that is safe for health department workers and the unsheltered. We also work closely with the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, whose role it is to determine shelter needs, to help unsheltered people connect to housing and services.”