Even though the homeless situation in downtown Salt Lake City is clearly better today than it was last year, a new poll of city residents finds that nearly half say the homeless/panhandling problem in the city is about the same.
The poll shows a real disconnect between law enforcement boots on the ground and homeless social worker and rehabilitation programs and what residents in the state’s largest city see for themselves.
UtahPolicy.com polled 203 city residents recently, and pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds what can only be considered troubling opinions by city residents.
45 percent of city residents say the homeless/panhandling situation in the city is “about the same” as when the state, city, and county began the clean -up of the Rio Grande area on the city’s near westside.
Only 26 percent of city residents say the homeless situation is better.
24 percent say the homeless problem has actually gotten worse over the last year.
And 5 percent don’t know.
Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by government officials.
The hundreds of homeless folks – and the drug dealers and prostitutes who preyed on them – are now off the streets – many of them in rehabilitation programs for alcohol and drugs, or jail.
Thousands of arrests have been made for back warrants, drug dealing and other crimes.
You can read the considerable improvements made on the state’s homeless via the helping website – Operation Rio Grande — found here.
State, city, and county officials have held several media updates – trying to get the word out about how successful Operation Rio Grande has been.
But, clearly, from Jones’ poll, the word is not out there.
Or city folks are not seeing the improvements backers had hoped for.
One example, several dozen homeless folks have been camping out on the parking strip right across the street from the Salt Lake City Police/Fire Department headquarters on 300 East.
If you drive or walk by that area – or get a glimpse of it from the TRAX line – maybe you wouldn’t believe the homeless situation has changed much in the city.
But it clearly has — and for the better.
Jones finds little difference among demographic groups concerning how they see the city’s homeless problems:
43 percent of Republicans say the homeless situation is about the same; 32 percent say it is better; 17 percent say it is worse.
47 percent of Democrats say homelessness is about the same in the city; only 19 percent say it is better; while 29 percent say it is worse.
42 percent of political independents say the situation in the city for homeless folks is about the same; 30 percent say it is better; and 23 percent say it is even worse.
Various local religions and churches provide help to the homeless.
But members of those churches do not see the benefit for the homeless, either:
52 percent of “very active” Mormons in the city say the homeless situation hasn’t changed; 24 percent say it is better; 20 percent say worse.
Catholics in the city – who help with a homeless soup kitchen in the Rio Grande area – have even a worse impression of the situation; 44 percent say it is even worse than it was a year ago; 30 percent say it is about the same; 26 percent say it is better.
Jones polled 203 city residents from Aug. 22- Sept. 12. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.8 percent.