Last month, the landscape maintenance department of the University of Utah cleaned up another reported “homeless camp” on campus. These camps generally consist of a tent filled with a presumed homeless individual’s belongings.
This camp was different from others found on campus previously in that it seemed to be a holding place for items found around the university, including clothing, keyboards and bike tires. Yet, there did not appear to be anyone sleeping in the tent.
While they find anywhere from three to four every year this one, located by the Marriott Library, was unique given its central location.
Historically speaking, the landscape maintenance crew has found camps that sleep one to three residents, often closer to the foothills or Red Butte Garden.
Last year near the University Hospital parking lot, maintenance located a camp that contained drug paraphernalia including needles and alcohol. The setup was quickly cleaned up and disposed of but was not the first on-campus site to contain such paraphernalia.
It is believed that most of the homeless individuals residing on campus are coming here from the community, and some of them may be coming over from the VA hospital just off campus, given the close proximity. It was noted that the camp from last month appeared to belong to a much younger person than what is commonly observed.
Given the rape that occurred on Halloween, the student body as well as the faculty was reminded how attentive everyone should be of their surroundings. This was the recommendation of landscape supervisor Lisa McCarrel as well. She encourages students to use caution and report any camps or out-of-place items on campus grounds directly to her office. She ensures that her office will respond immediately with the removal of the items and that any interaction with homeless individuals will be handled with their respect in mind.
It is McCarrel’s office that is in charge of removing the camps from U property. If it appears that people are present at the camp, they will call campus police, who will approach and let the people residing there know that they need to go elsewhere. McCarrel emphasized the compassion with which this process is carried out.
Once the homeless individuals are no longer there, McCarrel’s team comes in and evaluates whether there is any hazardous waste such as drug paraphernalia, broken bottles or human waste. In these cases, special contractors certified in the removal of these materials are brought in. Once the area is deemed safe for the team, landscape maintenance will complete the removal.
“These folks are struggling in their lives” expressed McCarrel, who has personally spoken with a few of the individuals who were temporarily residing on campus. She described them as extremely cooperative and spoke of the very sad situation in which they are “very conscious of the fact that they are a nuisance [and] that people are scared of them” but continued to emphasize that there is no need to be scared given her past experiences.
For any reporting concerns, please contact the Department of Public Safety at 801-585-2677.
Correction: Lisa McCarrel’s name was incorrect, as was the number of homeless encampments that they find per year. Reporting concerns updated to contact the Department of Public Safety.