Park City, compassionate, allows homeless man to stay in transit center
It would have been dangerous to order him out in the frigid temperatures
January 10, 2017
A homeless man took up temporary quarters in the Old Town transit center in the frigid overnight hours last weekend, drawing the attention of the Park City Police Department and highlighting both the difficulty of the housing market in the area as well as the decision-making process of the police.
The report was logged at 1:50 a.m. on Saturday. Phil Kirk, a police captain, said an officer on regular patrol found the man sleeping on a bench in the lower level of the transit center. The doors to the Swede Alley facility were locked at the time. Although someone is prohibited from being inside the transit center when it is closed, the police on duty at the time allowed the man to stay, Kirk said. It was a “gentle approach” based on the temperatures, he said, describing it as “very kind and good judgment on their part.”
“We felt the most prudent thing was to allow him to stay there the rest of the night,” Kirk said, adding, “It would be just too dangerous. He could have frozen to death.”
Kirk said an officer warned the person about staying in the transit center, though. The man is 28 years old and previously lived in an apartment on Kearns Boulevard, according to Kirk. The man did not tell the police how long he has been homeless. He told the officers he works in the Park City area and planned to stay with friends the following night, Kirk said.
There are only occasional reports of transients or homeless people inside Park City. In many of those, someone is seen in the summer or fall living in campsites in the hills surrounding Park City.
There are no homeless shelters in the Park City area. The closest is in the Salt Lake Valley. Had the police wanted to remove the man from the transit center, the Police Department would have contacted a shelter in the Salt Lake Valley to learn if there was room for the person, Kirk said. It is likely the police would have transported the person to the shelter as well if he wanted to stay there.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, logged a case involving a homeless person in the overnight hours of the next day. At 3 a.m. on Sunday, a man was found inside the transit center at Kimball Junction. Andrew Wright, a Sheriff’s Office lieutenant, said the man told a deputy he works in the area. He chose to move from the transit center to a nearby business that is open 24 hours a day to wait to go to work, Wright said, describing the man as in a “transition stage” between housing. It was not clear if the man at the transit center at Kimball Junction is the same person found at the Old Town transit center.
Wright said the Sheriff’s Office ensures a homeless person is safe when they encounter one. He said the Sheriff’s Office finds resources for them or transports them to a facility in the Salt Lake Valley that will provide food and shelter.
“We will make sure they are not left to freeze,” Wright said.
The Park City housing market – rentals and for-sale units – has long been the state’s priciest as vacation-home owners and wealthy permanent residents are drawn to the city. Housing difficulties have persisted among the rank-and-file work force for more than 20 years. Although there are tales of campsite living in the summer, the reports at the transit centers are unusual. It is also rare for the reports to be logged in the winter, when harsh conditions make it even more difficult for a homeless person attempting to live in Park City.
The Christian Center of Park City, an organization that operates a food bank and offers other resources, encourages people without living quarters to go to a shelter in the Salt Lake Valley when it comes in contact with them. Rob Harter, the executive director, said the Christian Center of Park City pays their bus fare to the valley. He was unaware of the cases at the transit centers. Harter said he trusts law enforcement to assess the cases individually.
“It’s too cold for anybody to sleep outside,” Harter said. “You can literally freeze to death.”