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Claims of homeless population spike along Jordan River

SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake City Police Department is responding to social media accounts claiming Operation Rio Grande has shifted many homeless people away from the area near Pioneer Park to camps along the Jordan River.  Officials say it’s hard to verify if these posts are 100 percent accurate.

Just how many people left the Rio Grande area to go to the Jordan River Parkway?  This is extremely hard to verify.  Police Chief Mike Brown went to the area to see it for himself, but, investigators say it’s impossible to know which homeless camps are old and which are new.  However, one man who has lived next to the river for six months says he’s seen the population growth for himself.  “There’s been a migration from there to here.  I don’t know about up the river or down the river, but, at this point in the river, [near North Temple] it’s gone up 400 percent,” he says.

That man can only guess why some homeless people don’t try and get social services given at the Community Connection Center.  He says, “Maybe they feel that they’re not going to get the help they need.”  One homeless woman added, “They only take a certain amount of people.  Do you know how many people are homeless?”

Chief Brown says they knew there would be homeless people that would leave Rio Grande once the operation kicked off.  He also says there will always be people who are hesitant or downright afraid to talk with police.  However, he says there’s no need for people to fear the social workers conducting their outreach efforts.  Brown says, “They now have been joined with social workers from the Division of Workforce Services.  So, they have a group that stays at the CCC, then they go out into the field with referrals from officers.”

He adds that their ultimate goal is to get people back to The Road Home or the CCC so they can get help.  “It’s a lot safer down at the shelter now than it has ever been,” he says.