‘Camp Last Hope’ Provides Shelter For People Displaced By Salt Lake Encampment Cleanups
Michael Zufelt, 25, said he’s been homeless on and off for the last nine years. For the past week, he and his pitbull, Cerberus, have been living under an overpass on the west side of Salt Lake City.
“I feel safer than I’ve felt in a long time,” Zufelt said. “I've actually been able to get a better night's sleep than I have in quite some time. My dog doesn't feel threatened by anybody here. Everybody loves him, just like he loves everybody else.”
Zufelt and around 70 other people are living at what they call Camp Last Hope. They moved there after county and city officials closed down other encampments where they were staying.
Ty Bellamy, organizer of the Black Lives for Humanity Movement, has been providing tents, food and other supplies to people living at the camp. Despite being referred to as such, Bellamy stressed camping is a recreational activity — and that’s not what’s happening here.
“First and foremost, they’re not campers. That’s a very dangerous word,” Bellamy said. “This is not a campsite. When you are doing the best with what you have, where you can be, you are surviving. And that's what they're doing.”
She has long-term goals to house the residents, including renovating RVs and buses into tiny homes. For now, she said the people at Camp Last Hope are working to keep the area safe and clean — including Bellamy, who has been sleeping at the campus — to prevent officials from pushing them out again.
“Really and truly, this is a residence now. They live here,” she said. “We need the mayor, the governor, the health department and the police department to step up or step away.”
When asked if the city would shut down the campus, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the city works with the county health department to determine that and respond if there’s a threat to public health. Right now, she said they have no plans to clear it out.
For Zufelt, he’s working on getting a job and said he’s been dealing with mental health issues. He said Camp Last Hope is the final destination before he and others get permanent housing.
“I feel it deep down inside my soul,” Zufelt said. “This is the last spot where any of us are going to have to roll out a sleeping bag or pitch a tent and have to wonder where our next bit of food is going to come from. Thanks to [Bellamy], this is going to be our Camp New Beginning.”