Lawmakers hear from three men who were helped by ‘Operation Rio Grande’

Putting a face on the Utah Legislature’s considerable efforts to fight homelessness – and the homeless drug addictions – three young men who were arrested on various charges during last summer’s sweep of the Rio Grande homeless areas were introduced Thursday to the House Republican caucus.

The three men got a standing ovation from the 62-member caucus.

The men introduced themselves by name. But they are working within the state drug court’s jurisdiction to get their charges expunged from public records, so UtahPolicy won’t name them. is also not running pictures of the trio.

They are all in rehab in one program or another.

And if they successfully complete the various programs the drug court has put before them, their criminal records (in the August arrests) will be put behind them.

When they apply for jobs, housing or other efforts to rejoin society successfully, their previous actions won’t be held against them.

One young man said he is a Russian, in Utah for 13 years, who fell into drugs and petty crime.

He was swept up in the extensive Operation Rio Grande last summer, and voluntarily moved into rehab and other programs associated with ORG.

“The drug court is an important component” of ORG and the efforts by the state, and Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County to clean up the Rio Grande area and help the homeless throughout Utah, said House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, one of the driving forces behind the effort.

“You’ve been through homelessness and addiction. It’s tough,” said Hughes.

The House and Senate members this session have been raising private monies and bringing in clothing to help the homeless reclaim their dignity through looking personally better as they better their lives.

Hughes said it costs between $300 and $500 to pay legal costs to get your criminal record officially expunged.

And through ORG, private funds are being raised to pay those costs.

Part of ORG is to get homeless folks jobs and job training. But it can take upwards of three months to get a criminal record expunged – and drug court administrators are working to shorten that time frame.

So some folks won’t have their criminal records still public when they get out of rehab and start job hunting and apartment hunting.