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Latest Phase In Rio Grande Crackdown Brings Jobs To Homeless

Whittney Evans
Steve Starks, President of the Utah Jazz is leading the employment effort behind Operation Rio Grande.

Leaders say the long-term crime and drug crackdown in Salt Lake, Operation Rio Grande, is moving into a new phase. The focus now is getting people to work.

The Utah Department of Workforce services will put counselors on the street to meet with homeless individuals and find out if they’re able to work.

Those who aren’t ready to work because of a substance abuse issue, for instance, will be offered services. While those who are almost ready for employment will be offered so-called dignity activities like internships or temporary jobs.

Individuals who are ready to start work will be connected to employers. 

“That approach is really important as we move forward," says Steve Starks, president of the Utah Jazz, who's leading the employment push. "Understanding wear the individual is, assigning them a person that can work with them and following up long term.”

Okland Construction is the first business partner to sign on to help with the latest phase. They’ve invited 10 homeless people to come work on a construction site downtown. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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