‘Political Insiders’ doubt Operation Rio Grande will have a lasting impact on downtown Salt Lake City

Operation Rio Grande, the multifaceted operation to clean up violence and drug abuse surrounding the homeless population in downtown Salt Lake City is entering its third week.

The first phase of the operation featured an increased police presence to crack down on drug dealers and other criminal elements in the area. The second phase, now underway, is focusing on treatment for drug abusers. The third part of the plan will focus on employment for homeless individuals. 

Our “Political Insiders” aren’t sure the multi-pronged effort will be successful in the long run.

60% of the Republicans on our panel think Operation Rio Grande will improve things permanently in downtown Salt Lake City, while 40% think the situation will eventually revert to the way they were.

44% of the Democrats who responded to our question say that Operation Rio Grande will be successful in the long run while 56% say it won’t.

Our readers also aren’t very optimistic about the prospects for Operation Rio Grande with 48% saying it will lead to a permanent improvement in downtown Salt Lake while 52% say it will not.


Selected anonymous comments:

Unless there are very real, systemic changes including expansion of services, early intervention programs, domestic violence training and early involvement, ultimately all efforts are like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

I have no faith in anything the government does anymore.

Way to go, Greg Hughes! This was an example of true, compassionate leadership!

The real work begins when the addicts start their treatment.

Without constant and continuous attention it will slip back to where it was.

Not a fair question: Things have already improved, but it will require an ongoing commitment and political will. Not even the sages at Utah Policy can see out that far. But remember, the poor will always be with us!

Any short-term program will have short-term results; a long-term program is required to achieve long-term results.

Nobody believes that the operation of the last couple of days alone is enough to solve the problem but it hasn’t always been this bad and there’s no reason it has to stay this bad. Increase enforcement plus increased treatment opportunities plus dispersing the homeless shelter locations can clearly make things better

The homeless congregate for the same natural reasons any community, business or government consolidates physical location… when we realize this, it should impress upon us a demand to shape what this space looks like – not just an to banish these people to other places or pretend we can prevent them from existing in the first place.

At first, I didn’t think it would last, but after learning that they are selling property around the area and have plans to open some new chain restaurants in the area, I have changed my mind. They will not solve the homeless and drug problem, but it will be moved from the area to a few blocks away.

I am optimistic enough to hope the situation at Rio Grande can be helped. The will of the state and local governments has been demonstrated positively. I hope that the follow-through will also be relentless and focused enough to plan for unforeseen consequences and be flexible enough to assure success and not forget that they are dealing with real people.

We need sustainable changes: increased treatment beds, increased medical care and housing sites, rehab programs, work programs, etc. Otherwise, this will be a temporary relocation of the homeless.

This is a wicked problem that will never go away permanently. It is great that something is being done but as good as everyone’s intentions are, this cannot be sustained indefinitely. Eventually, things will revert to the way they were.

They are focusing on short-term solutions and not the root of the problem.

If state officials want to clean up the Rio Grande area, they should have accepted Medicaid expansion under the ACA. They would be able to provide far more effective treatment.

Increased patrols are promised for the next two years, which just happens to be how long until the shelter downtown closes. When the law enforcement and treatment dollars dry up, the dealers and addicts will return, but they’ll have three new alternatives in addition to their traditional stomping grounds at Pioneer Park. The result will be a spread out mess that was once a single steaming pile.

I don’t know that it will ‘improve,’ but it will change if ORG continues through the closing of The Road Home in 2019. Once the homeless shelter is no longer there, the character of the area will probably change. With Catholic Community Services’ soup kitchen still there, there will always be a homeless presence in that area, but I think the shelter itself is a major draw for many of the problems because people hang out waiting for a bed for the night. If the soup kitchen eventually moves as well, then changes will be permanent. Whether it will ‘improve’ the area remains to be seen.

If they keep it up, the population may get used to avoiding Rio Grande and simply set up shop elsewhere.

It will improve things at that particular location internally. But the issues will be found in other locations.