Homeless in Paradise
PARK CITY, Utah. — Park City may appear picture-perfect, but poverty and housing insecurity exist even in the most beautiful mountain towns. In December and January, the Park City Police Department (PCPD) reported people sleeping in the McPolin barn bathroom and a local transit center.
In addition, the Christian Center of Park City (CCPC) has reported an uptick in the number of people living in their cars as a result of evictions, which have increased during the pandemic.
CCPC Case Manager Kendal Lukrich, who works directly with the homeless population, said she often sees “walk-ins who report that they were referred by PCPD as well as the Sheriff’s Department,” looking for food, clothing, and shelter.
According to PCPD’s Sgt. Jay Randall, there are a few regular displaced citizens who remain in town throughout the year.
“The kind of folks that stay here year-round, they look for the kind of place that they can stay warm at night,” Randall said. “Their explanation [for staying up here] is that people are very generous in Park City, and typically they can’t find people that will even pay attention to them let alone help them with resources or any kind of financial assistance [elsewhere].”
Randall said that PCPD officers have heard from people they’re assisting that Salt Lake City shelters are full and that “drugs and other things are so rampant that they choose not to be there.”
Members of the community periodically call the police or Sheriff’s departments to complain about people they perceive to be homeless, reporting them for things like sleeping in public. Yearly training for the PCPD equips officers to respond to reports of displaced people with empathy, patience, and persistence.
The PCPD also has a homeless liaison – an officer who is dedicated to serving this group in addition to their regular duties on the force. But oftentimes people turn down information and offers for resources.
“What we’ve done through this liaison is develop a sort of pamphlet, numbers [displaced individuals] can call, places they can go, and a few services that can be offered,” said Randall, who also noted that officers come across people who already have the pamphlet, sometimes multiple copies of it, but haven’t yet taken advantage of the resources it details.
The food pantry is an immediate resource for people who are hungry or experiencing food insecurity. Clothing can be provided through CCPC’s thrift store, and people looking for medical and mental health services will be connected with the appropriate providers. If anyone is in need of housing, CCPC pays for bus fare to transport them to a Salt Lake City homeless shelter.
“Any time we come in contact with one of these individuals, we discuss their circumstances,” Randall said. “Folks get so depressed or so down that they don’t take the precautions to last a whole night. 211 is a number set up through Utah as a number the homeless or displaced can call, and resources are available through that number.”
Lukrich said that CCPC will assist those who are employed but transitioning in their housing situation with rent, but the organization does not directly provide housing.
If you or someone you know is temporarily displaced or voluntarily displaced in the Park City area and need assistance, call 211 for help with resources, and/or visit www.ccofpc.org to complete an assistance application.