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Woman dead at homeless yard encampment; authorities to help find shelter

Darin Mann offered his yard to those experiencing homelessness. Last week, health officials gave him a deadline of Feb. 19, 2021 to close it down. Sunday, a woman died in his yard. Photo: KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — One woman is dead and a man in the hospital in what may be a case of carbon monoxide poisoning involving a front yard homeless encampment in Salt Lake City. 

Darin Mann says he was told the cause of death for the woman, who has not been identified, was probably carbon monoxide poisoning. He said she and her boyfriend, who wound up in the hospital, were using coal to heat their tent. 

Homeless encampment under fire after death

Mann opened his front yard to the homeless after becoming frustrated with the available resources to address homelessness in the area. But police say that effort to help may in fact be hurting instead. 

“Even if they’re well-meaning, people that disrupt our officers’ ability to check on these folks — at times, people pass away,” Lt. Steve Wooldridge said. 

Mann appeared shaken by the events, but defended the homeless encampment, saying the city just moves people around without providing real assistance. 

“Because they say, ‘Oh, people are blocking services with camps and whatnot,’ but all they do is just push them to another spot,” Mann said. “They don’t really provide services.” 

Last week, health officials gave Mann a deadline of Feb. 19, 2021 to remove the homeless encampment in his yard. 

City working to find shelter for residents of camp 

Salt Lake City officials pushed back against that claim, pointing to a shift from merely providing shelter to a more treatment-based approach to those experiencing homelessness in recent years, including the opening of several resource centers. 

In a statement, Mayor Erin Mendenhall called the death of the woman a tragedy. 

This is a tragedy. My heart goes out to the friends, family, and community who cared for the deceased in this senseless death. While the police investigate this sad situation, the City is working with the homeowner to transport individuals remaining at his residence to available shelter. My hope is that anyone sleeping in a tent or on our streets will instead choose a safer path and connect with our homeless services system. Utilizing them can help prevent further tragedies like this one.

A separate statement from the city follows: 

It is inaccurate to say that Salt Lake City is not working to help provide resources to assist unsheltered people in the community.  Annually the city provides more than $15 million in funding to support the professional agencies that provide direct services to the unsheltered  — From running the homeless resource centers, to providing outreach and access to drug and mental health treatment — so that individuals can move indoors and get on a path to greater stability. On the night of February 6, shelter bed counts showed that beds were available in every shelter systemwide.

The City did encourage Mr. Mann to connect with service providers to help people transition into available resources as quickly as possible and is now working with him to transport individuals remaining at his residence to available shelter.

By late Sunday, Mann launched a GoFundMe* to raise money for a “tiny house” project for people experiencing homelessness as an alternative to the city’s resource centers. 

*KSL NewsRadio does not assure that the money deposited to a GoFundMe account directly benefits the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to such an account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

 

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