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County Assesses Needs Of Rio Grande Homeless Population

Homeless.jpg
Whittney Evans

Salt Lake City Police have already identified much of the crime element in the homeless population downtown, directing people to treatment or jail through Project Diversion. Now dozens of Salt Lake County employees and volunteers are getting to know those who remain. 

Janell Fluckiger is a special projects manager for Salt Lake County.  Recently she spent the day in the Rio Grande Neighborhood asking questions like, what would it take to get you into housing? And what’s preventing you from working?

“We felt that it was key right now,” Fluckiger said. “Coming on the heels of criminal justice. Leading into the site selection. Leading into the next legislative session where we have to kind of account for what we’ve done and lay out a plan if we want additional funds.”

If anyone knows people down here, it’s Gina Lopez. She’s a client advocate for Catholic Community Services. She’s kind of like a friendly investigator.

“I’ve got a younger man,” Lopez said. “He’s probably in his 40’s. And he’s been around here about a year. I’ve been trying to figure out who he is.  I’ve looked on social media, just any place to find his wife and his son because he thinks he’s in New York.

Lopez helps people get new identification, find a job or an apartment, even rekindle relationships.  As we toured the Weigand Homeless Services Center, a client named William approached us wearing a coat like a buttoned up cape. He clearly had a dislocated shoulder and the sight made me go weak.  

“My shoulder ball joint is all the way down here. You know the cement stairway at the gateway? I fell from the top all the way down,” he said.

Lopez is unfazed.

“So the clinic is gonna be here tomorrow,” she told him. “So let Susan check it.”

Lopez said she does what she can, bit by bit to make their day run smoother. But she adds, with mental health problems affecting more than half of her clients, sometimes that’s all she can do.

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