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Salt Lake City residents think homeless situation has not improved

FILE PHOTO (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — People in Salt Lake City don’t seem to think the homeless and panhandling situation has improved downtown, even with a year of solid strides since Operation Rio Grande began.

City officials are pleased with the progress made in tackling the homeless situation — people cleared out of the Rio Grande area, hundreds of arrests, dozens helped into treatment — but a new poll shows that 45-percent of people living in Salt Lake City say the homeless/panhandling situation is about the same.

Advocate for the homeless Pamela Atkinson wants people there is a difference between homeless people and panhandlers.

“Many of them are not homeless,” says Atkinson. “If you want to ever want to follow them, they usually go to an apartment or even a house.”

Atkinson believes the homeless situation has improved immensely and people are getting the help they need since Operation Rio Grande, and she expects the gains to continue as more resources are diverted toward solving the problem. She also feels the general public is making the ever-growing panhandling situation worse.

“We can only stop panhandling if our generous public stop giving to panhandlers,” Atkinson says. “The perception that panhandlers are still around is quite true, but many of them are not homeless people who take advantage of our services.”

Just over a quarter of those polled say things have improved downtown.

Roughly the same amount the problems have actually gotten worse.