Operation Rio Grande | KUER 90.1

Operation Rio Grande

Credit Jon Reed / KUER

In the late aughts and the early teens, Utah had embarked on an ambitious program to end chronic homelessness. It was called “Housing First,” and in 2015, the state made national headlines with a more than 91% reduction – finding homes for some 1,800 people. But the individuals that met the definition of “chronic” homelessness accounted for just one-fifth of the 14,000 homeless population.

By 2017, Operation Rio Grande had moved to the forefront of Utah’s conversation around homelessness. State and local governments launched the action in August 2017 in an attempt to address crime in the area in downtown Salt Lake City where The Road Home’s shelter was located. The area was known as a hotbed for homicide and drug deals. 

The operation was broken up into three phases that focused on goals such as: public safety and restoring orderingassessing, treating and supporting individuals with mental health and addiction needs; increasing employment opportunities.

Government officials decided to close the downtown shelter for good. To replace it, three homeless resource centers were built and spread out within Salt Lake County. Those shelters opened up after August 2019.

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Photo of a boy walking in the desert at sunset.
Kelsie Moore / KUER

Southwest Utah is facing a lack of affordable housing — and it’s getting worse. But homelessness there doesn’t always look how you might imagine. Earlier this year, KUER’s Southwest News Bureau reporter David Fuchs told the story of Cory and Skip Stahr and their son Seren, who were living in a trailer in the desert. 

Photo of the Road Home Shelter.
Jon Reed / KUER

After the Road Home shelter closed last month, homeless advocates worried there wouldn’t be enough beds. Now, recent reports say some of the 700 available beds at three new resource centers in Salt Lake County are going empty.

Photo of doors to the now closed Road Home shelter.
Jon Reed / KUER

The Road Home has been at the center of a long and awkward transition in the Salt Lake area’s homeless services model. But on Thursday – the same day the group closed its downtown facility for good – the nonprofit announced it had won a $5 million grant from the Day 1 Families Fund, a charity backed by Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos. 

Photo of the entrance of a new shelter.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

After a four-month delay stemming from weather and permitting issues, Salt Lake County officials Tuesday celebrated the completion of the county’s third — and final — new homeless resource center. 

Phot of a boy playing a handheld video game in front of an old camper trailer. The desert stretches out in the background.
David Fuchs / KUER

St. George — It’s Back to School Night at Diamond Valley Elementary, and the auditorium is filled with the usual suspects: tired, young parents and restless, wriggling children. But near the back of the room, seated at the edge of the aisle, is a 47-year-old woman with a blue streak in her hair. She’s equal parts exhausted, anxious and out of place. 

Photo of new shelter.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

Construction delays at two of three new Salt Lake area homeless shelters are prompting concern from community members. They were scheduled to start serving clients on July 1. But in mid-June, officials with the Utah Department of Workforce Services revised that plan, pushing the opening dates back by several weeks. 

Photo of Gwen White.
Rebecca Ellis / KUER

For years, homeless Utahns residing at the Road Home, Salt Lake City’s main downtown homeless shelter, didn’t have to walk far to find a doctor. Fourth Street Clinic, a nonprofit that provides healthcare for the area’s homeless, was just one block away.

Photo of Utah Community Action Grant.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

In 2012, when Cindy Taufa moved her family to Utah to escape the growing cost of living in California, she never expected her large family to end up homeless.

Rocio Hernandez / KUER

The moon was still out, but it provided little light to Shawn Spalding while he walked through a park in the Sugar House neighborhood at 4 a.m. on Friday.

Photo of VA sign.
Renee Bright / KUER

Homeless veterans struggling with substance abuse in Utah may have been kept out of a transitional housing complex on the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs campus, according to allegations from the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City.

Rocio Hernandez / KUER

The halls of the INN Between hospice center for the homeless were quiet the day after Christmas.

But then again, it’s generally pretty quiet at the former nursing home site since the organization moved into the area near Liberty Party in June. Located at 1300 South and 1100 East, the three-year-old INN Between provides homeless people who are at the end of life or severely ill with shelter and a warm bed for at least 50 clients. But there's still a clamor over the new addition to the neighborhood.

Photo of names on a board.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

Clay Boss’ bad luck started in 2010 after he suffered a bad accident that left him unable to keep working as a truck driver.

2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

The number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Utah ticked up slightly from the previous year, though still below where it stood more than a decade ago, according to an annual federal report released Monday.

Photo of Drage in kitchen.
Kelsie Moore / KUER

 

Michele Jones likes to believe she's pretty good at spotting students who are struggling.

The 41-year-old math teacher at Cyprus High School in Magna is quick to notice when homework gets sloppy or a student misses class. But with Dustin Drage, a quiet freshman with a penchant for art, drawing and doodling, there weren't the typical red flags.

A federal appeals court is siding with several homeless people in Boise who have sued the city for prosecuting them for sleeping outside.


A woman on the sidewalk is helped by an officer and paramedic.
Whittney Evans / KUER

Tuesday morning, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremy McKenzie is making his rounds through the Rio Grande neighborhood. He surveys the streets for criminal activity and people who need help. Last year it was a lot easier to spot someone smoking spice or injecting heroin on the sidewalk. It's still a rough neighborhood, he says, but it's much safer now.

Yazzie stands with arms folded in a framing warehouse.
Whittney Evans / KUER

Every weekday, 49-year-old Fabian Yazzie wakes up at 3:30 a.m., hops on his bicycle, boards a train traveling to the opposite end of the valley and clocks into work at exactly 5:20 a.m. It's a long haul, but the formerly homeless Yazzie says it doesn't bother him.

A closed fast food restaurant with a SLC Police logo on the window.
Whittney Evans / KUER

Salt Lake police have opened a temporary precinct west of downtown to address an uptick in crime in the North Temple corridor, police said Tuesday.

Whittney Evans/KUER

A legislative audit shows drug use and other safety issues continue to be a problem inside three facilities owned by The Road Home, months after state and local officials launched a law enforcement crackdown in the neighborhood. 

Shelter The Homeless

Officials will break ground Monday on the first of three new homeless shelters in Salt Lake County. 

HTTPS://WWW.HOMELESSFACILITYSITE.ORG/

Local and state officials are working to open three new homeless shelters to replace some of the beds that will be lost when The Road Home Shelter downtown closes next summer.

 

Whittney Evans/KUER

 


A crime and drug crackdown outside Salt Lake City’s homeless shelter this summer forced hundreds of people out of the Rio Grande neighborhood. And they may be temporarily out of sight, but for many communities they’re not out of mind.

 

Whittney Evans / KUER

Utah lawmakers are pushing forward with a measure to motivate cities around the state to either build more affordable housing and homeless shelters, or help shoulder the cost of them in other communities.

Nicole Nixon/KUER

Operation Rio Grande, the drug and crime crackdown in Salt Lake City began six months ago and the blighted neighborhood outside The Road Home shelter is virtually transformed. 

Whittney Evans/KUER

Special housing is now available in Salt Lake County for about 150 people in addiction recovery. Eligible clients, many of whom were arrested during the crime and drug crackdown Operation Rio Grande, will receive vouchers for up to three months at a sober living home.

Erik Neumann / KUER

Odyssey House is Utah’s biggest addiction treatment provider. On Thursday officials unveiled a new inpatient facility to help people struggling with opioid addiction, roughly doubling treatment capacity. 

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Crossroads Urban Center is calling for the creation of more shelter and housing options for homeless families in Salt Lake County. They’re releasing a Wednesday that shows the county’s existing services for homeless families are struggling to keep up with demand.

Whittney Evans/KUER

Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows, in addition to a slight uptick in homelessness this year, more homeless people are going unsheltered. That means they’re sleeping in camps or on the streets.

Whittney Evans/KUER

The latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development show this is the first time homelessness has gone up in Utah in six years.

File Photo / KUER

The Salt Lake City Council says it’s willing to pay for 50 new police officer positions—nearly twice what Chief Mike Brown asked for earlier this month.

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