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Neighborhoods concerned homeless moving in

Neighbors claim "Operation Rio Grande" causing makeshift transient camps

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) -  Dee Nielson has grown tired of picking up after the homeless.

She works at a west side business near 1000 South and South Temple in Salt Lake City.

"All the city has done is push them down here," said Nielson.

She's referring to Operation Rio Grande that the state and local governments unveiled Monday.  The crackdown on crime is targeting drug dealers but it's also offering treatment and employment training for those wishing to change their lives.

One of those living in a makeshift camp near 1000 West is Avalon Jackman and his wife.

"You got the homeless shelter where you can get help but it's either be there (amongst the) madness, or here," he said.

Jackman said the remote area near the railroad tracks is less maddening than what the homeless shelter offers.

He and another group put up stakes for the past week.  Nielson like other neighbors are fed up with them.

"We've hauled 4 big dumpsters of the homeless' stuff," she said.  "They have card boards and clothes and stuff that they just leave."

Across the street is another homeless camp at a park near 1000 south and South Temple.
The homeless living there said they showed up yesterday after 'Operation Rio Grande' got underway.

"With the shelter, there's bed bugs in there," said Richard who didn't want his last name disclosed. "There's people who are drunk, people who are exposed to drugs that we're trying to get away from."

But just ask the neighbors living near the park and they too aren't happy with what's next door.

"My dad has to run around everyday to pickup needles," said Nadine Anderson whose parents live next to the park.  "I had my grandkids here yesterday.  They drop their pants right over there and go to the bathroom."

Those living in Salt Lake City's west side are worried that 'Operation Rio Grande' is pushing drug dealers and the homeless into their neighborhoods.

Tuesday,  the area around 500 west and 400 south was noticeably vacant.  It's an area where hundreds of homeless would pitch their tent and stay.

"We understand that we're disrupting a lot of the behavior of this particular area and that's going to disburse people throughout the city," said Greg Wilking with Salt Lake City police.

Law enforcement said 'Operation Rio Grande' is designed to crackdown on crime and put an end to drug deals near the shelter.  But police are also taking steps to stop the homeless from relocating into neighborhoods.

Avalon Jackman said his neighbors were arrested Monday morning on warrants.

And as for them, they've been told by police to clear out.

"Basically they told us we got to go." Jackman said. "They told us there's going to be a cleaning crew.  They told us to get all of our belongings, that we're having problems keeping or else they're going to come and take it all."

By late afternoon, the Jackmans were still at their makeshift campsite.


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