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Advocates: More homeless people housed, Operation Rio Grande partially to thank

SALT LAKE CITY – At least 71 people who used to sleep on the streets are now in permanent housing, and some homeless advocates say Operation Rio Grande is partially responsible for the turnaround.

Operation Rio Grande was a series of law enforcement raids in 2017 that broke up homeless encampments in downtown Salt Lake City.

But it also linked people with services.

Operation Rio Grande housing the homeless

Longtime homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson is amazed at the difference, as she explained during a hearing at the state Capitol on Friday.

“We now have 71 people — it may have gone up to 73 today — in their own homes,” “Atkinson said. “Who literally when ORG started, they were out on the street.”

She also praised Utah’s Housing First policy, which aims to get people into apartments quickly instead of staying in homeless shelters for long periods of time.

“The people who are succeeding, we house them in the resource centers first, and then they move out into their own apartments,” Atkinson said. “I am amazed at the growth that I see and the success.”

She also encouraged lawmakers not to make cuts to homeless services and to support more case workers, which is key to keeping people off the streets.

“Number one, it’s the case management that people get–the human touch and the listening ear…we learn a lot from the people we’re trying to serve,” Atkinson said.

Operation Rio Grande has come under fire from other homeless advocates as ineffective. They claim the homeless are just moving around to different parts of the city.


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