SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Leaders of Operation Rio Grande gathered to review the successes and challenges ahead, one year after the operation began. While crime is down more than 40 percent in the area, other challenges are preventing more people from getting the help they need.
Leaders highlighted the success of the operation with 40-year-old Amy Daeschel. She had been living on the streets for two years suffering from heroin and meth addiction.
Deschel had a “normal” life with a family until becoming addicted to pain killers after an injury. While living on the streets she was arrested seven times until her last arrest came during the operation.
“Every time I went into jail I would wait months at a time,” said Daeschel. Either being released right back onto the streets with no resources until the seventh time and that was different.”
Daeschel became emotional while telling her story, She talked about overdosing twice and said she would likely be dead without the program.
Not everyone has seen success through the operation. While many we talked to said the streets are cleaner and they feel safer, they said the lack of affordable housing is still the biggest issue.
Holly Stites has been homeless for three years after losing her job. She received a housing voucher three months ago but still hasn’t been able to find a place.
“It’s not just us getting a housing voucher it’s the landlords in the community helping by accepting them because a lot of places won’t,” said Stites.
Numbers show that the average stay in a homeless shelter has dropped by five days, and the number of treatment beds for addicts have more than doubled.
Extra funding has helped get more people into services, but now there aren’t enough professionals to expand services further. Speaker Greg Hughes said with the success of these programs shouldn’t be hindered for those who need the help.
“In having these facilities and having this opportunity for people who are willing to take it, we have to have more of them,” said Hughes.
Operation Rio Grande is set to last another year until the new homeless resource centers are built.