The Pioneer Park Coalition issued the following statement:
As temperatures begin dropping to near freezing levels, scores of our fellow citizens will sleep on the streets tonight. Many of these individuals are caught in the grip of opioid addiction or struggling with severe mental health challenges. It shouldn’t be this way. The freezing temperatures aside, unsheltered individuals are more likely to become victims of violence and sexual assault too.
Across the city, beds are available at our state of the art resource centers, rooms are available at the new overflow shelter, and service providers with wrap around resources are ready to help. Strangely, some groups call any attempt to bring our unsheltered population reprieve from the dangers and hardship of street life “heartless”. These groups could use a reminder from the late Mother Theresa who told us, “Poverty doesn’t only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity.”
There is no compassion in enabling street camping.
When the Salt Lake County Health Department worked to clean up the encampment between 6th and 5th South today, they collected 2,000 pounds of garbage and 300-400 used syringes. Any groups that advocate for our fellow citizens to live in this type of squalor are entirely out of touch with the destitute situation on the ground. If we want to show compassion and improve our city, we need to put an end to street camping and help our unsheltered population get inside, get warm, and get the life-changing help they need.