SLC mayor: There will be no police crackdown on the homeless during NBA All-Star Game

Outreach teams and public safety workers may offer unhoused Utahns help as streets close, Mendenhall said, but unsheltered residents face no threat of increased enforcement.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Banners at the City Creek Mall advertise for All-Star weekend on Saturday. Salt Lake City doesn't plan any sweeps of homeless camps during the events.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in no uncertain terms Tuesday that police will not conduct additional enforcement against unsheltered residents when the NBA All-Star Game takes over the heart of Utah’s capital this weekend.

Mendenhall’s comments came during a news conference she hosted with police Chief Mike Brown to discuss the city’s public safety plan for the coming weekend. About 100,000 visitors are expected to flock to Utah for the festivities.

The mayor said officials are always trying to connect unhoused residents with resources, and that won’t change this weekend, but those residents will face no new clampdown from police when the national spotlight turns to Salt Lake City.

“And enforcement will not be used,” the mayor said, “to leverage people into shelters in some new or unique way.”

Her insistence that the Salt Lake City Police Department has no directive to change how it engages with residents experiencing homelessness follows news of a state-funded plan to offer additional homeless resources for the weekend.

(Salt Lake City Police Department) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and police Chief Mike Brown discuss the city's public safety plan for the NBA All-Star Game.

State officials expect to pump tens of thousands of dollars into a plan that includes a temporary shelter that can serve up to 90 people, incentives for shelter workers, and additional transportation options and meals for watch parties that will be staged at homeless resource centers.

Wayne Niederhauser, the state’s homelessness coordinator, has said the additional resources are meant to ensure the safety of all, including unsheltered Utahns, and are not intended to keep residents experiencing homelessness out of the public eye.

Mendenhall said the city’s rapid intervention team, which aims to prevent small homeless camps from mushrooming, will continue to work this weekend in the same way it does every other day of the year.

But with road closures downtown this weekend, the mayor acknowledged, businesses, housed residents and unsheltered Utahns alike will face disruptions.

“We recognize anytime there’s a major event in the city, especially when it creates road closures and occupies public space,” Mendenhall added, “that can create displacement of all sorts.”

Outreach teams and public safety workers may offer help to unsheltered residents in impacted areas, she said, “but there won’t be any operational changes in terms of trying to compel people, or doing enforcement to get them to move.”

Brown urged patience from residents and business owners while streets are closed and visitation is high for all the extra activities.

The mayor, meanwhile, encouraged them to also lean into the fun of hosting a national event.

“Try to enjoy this,” she said. “There’s tens of thousands of people who are going to check out your business and your neighborhood and amplify the cool place that Salt Lake City is.”