Homeless advocates call for extended shelter options amid flooding risks

Apr 26, 2023, 8:30 AM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 1:07 pm

Utah's spring runoff has prompted a state of emergency declaration, caused evacuations and carried ...

Salt Lake County Health Department workers clean up homeless encampments in Salt Lake City on Dec. 9, 2020. Officials are now visiting homeless encampments to warn the unsheltered of the risk of camping near rising streams (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s spring runoff has prompted a state of emergency declaration, caused evacuations and carried away two homes in a landslide.

KSL.com reporter Ashle Fredde reports that state, county and city officials have continued to assure neighborhoods and residents about flood mitigation efforts. Salt Lake County said multiple divisions are assessing and activating flood control efforts to protect people and property. Sandbagging efforts are ongoing across the state and high-risk areas have been highlighted by the Salt Lake County Emergency Management team.

Areas along Red Butte, Emigration, City, Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood and Mill creeks are at the highest risk of spring runoff flooding caused by this year’s record-breaking snowpack. It is not uncommon to find homeless encampments in some of these areas, which is a growing concern for homeless advocates.

Winter overflow options and expanded capacity at homeless resource centers have begun closing, with normal capacity levels set to resume on May 1. The number of people using shelters has started to decline, while camping is on the rise, according to city data.

“Over the next two and a half weeks or so, everybody that’s been in overflow, which is about 600 people, will be displaced to the streets,” said Wendy Garvin, executive director of Unsheltered Utah. “These are all clearly people who want to be in shelter, who have chosen shelter, and who are now being forcibly moved out onto the streets. And then at the same time, there’s all this flooding risk that’s going on.”

Garvin pointed to Cottonwood Park as a high-risk area that is often utilized by the unsheltered population in the summer months.

“We’ve had floods before, right? They go up to your ankle or your leg, like your shin. But these floods that we’re expecting are of a different nature. And so, I’m really afraid that in the middle of the night, people’s tents are literally going to just get swept down the river,” said Garvin.

Ashle Fredde’s complete story continues at KSL.com.


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Homeless advocates call for extended shelter options amid flooding risks