People experiencing homelessness and activists gathered Friday in Washington Park in Salt Lake City to protest homeless camp clearings that have been conducted under the direction of the Public Health Department in recent months.
“What do they need?” yelled an activist to the crowd of about 100 people.
“A home!” they yelled back.
“When do they need it?”
A man who identified himself as Rebel spoke about his experience being unhoused over the past two decades. He said he served in the armed forces and feels safer outside where he can “hear somebody coming up” than in an apartment where he’s not able to hear them.
Activist Eric Nelson said non-affordable housing is “popping up” over the city and gentrifying the city as people with more money than locals move to Utah. He said camp cleanups are “deliberate steps” of gentrification.
Unhoused people living in camps throughout Salt Lake City have been forced to move in camp cleanups over the past few months. Some lost personal belongings when a front loader was brought in to clear personal items at a homeless camp in the Rio Grande area in December.
Nearly 80% of the money spent by officials during Operation Rio Grande — a massive three-part campaign that began in 2017 — was for policing, jail beds and court costs.
Health Department officials have said the cleanups are intended to mitigate public health hazards that come as a result of the cleanups. The health department has said that social services are offered to unhoused people ahead of camp cleanups.