10/11/11 Opinion: Pioneer Park has long been home to many of Utah’s homeless. Near the “Road Home,” the city’s largest shelter, the park has been the resting place to many who cannot find a place to lay their head. The efforts of the community and past state legislatures and governing officials to “rid the park” of the destitute has been ongoing for years.
This week, Occupy SLC, an offshoot of New York City’s Wall Street protest movement, has gathered hundreds at their base, tent city in Pioneer Park. They are fighting corporate greed and lack of response to the economy. The problem at hand: what to do with the homeless at the park?
The Salt Lake City police have been incredibly helpful to the Occupy SLC organizers. But, to the hundreds of homeless who have been arrested, kicked out, and shamed -- no protection until a recent outcry from media leaks.
With the protection of Salt Lake City police, demonstrators have been able to cook, sleep and occupy the park, something the homeless have been disallowed in recent years. The irony is there folks, just look at it. Some news reports will have you believe that the demonstrators, police and homeless are cohabitating and working together nicely. This is my city, readers. The cooperation only happened after word leaked out that the “homeless were a nuisance and distraction to demonstrators.”
Many of the demonstrators hoped to open a hand to the portion of the “99 percent” they were fighting for. Some of the participants offered food, blankets and socks to the “Pioneer Public.” Other demonstrators found the homeless to be “objects of added distractions, stress and complications.” To those who accommodated the less than fortunate dwellers in my city, thank you. To those who found them a “complication with consuming problems,” what the heck are you fighting for?
Salt Lake City is a hub for transients and the homeless. Due to our community efforts, the state has often been the dumping ground for the state’s homeless. Nestled near rail and bus lines, thousands of homeless move in and out of Salt Lake City every year.
The “Road Home” is one of several major charitable institutions that address the homeless issue in the state and in neighboring areas. There are eight major shelters in the Salt Lake Metropolitan area where a finite number of beds are available. There are numerous churches and associations, such as the “Good Samaritan Program,” that offer meals daily to the poor in the city.
Twenty-five percent of the homeless in Salt Lake are under the age of 18. The food kitchens serve approximately 3000 meals daily. That’s daily, Utahans! For those in need of medical attention, the “Fourth Street Clinic” and the “Road Home” offer services by medical staff working pro bono.
The issue of the homeless population in Utah is vast and growing. That is not the objective of this article. While it is an extremely profound statement in itself about the growing need of American citizens, the issue at hand is – in order to accommodate those who wish to demonstrate for economic equality, we neglect the needs of the citizens who need it the most.
In order for the demonstrators to have a base camp, the indigent are removed, hassled and arrested. The police have provided security to the demonstrators, but continually harass those who need the security the most. Irony at its best.
Worker for the Good Samaritan Program – name not released
Past worker for the St. Vincent de Paul Center – now the “Road Home” – name not released