SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Social media posts circulating online blame health and police officials for disposing of homeless individuals’ belongings, but officials say they’re not.
Photographs posted online show Salt Lake City police officers standing by as Salt Lake County Health Department officials load multiple trailers with bright orange garbage bags full of what police say are items left behind at the Salt Lake City Library by the homeless.
Nicholas Rupp, with the county health department, told ABC4 News that the department schedules four abatements throughout the week and notices are posted the day before.
Meghan Ortiz, who’s been homeless for eight months, said she was outside the library Monday when officials showed up.
“I had medication on mine and I tried to get that and they let me have one bag off there because it was my medication and my anti-depressants,” said Ortiz, “but I couldn’t find it so it was somewhere in the cart and I wasn’t able to get that back.”
Ortiz said she’s seen the notices before that say, “Any items remaining after the date and time below will be considered abandoned and will be disposed of.”
But’s not what she thought it meant.
“Yeah, what I leave there might be trash, but when I’m there and I have my belongings with me, that’s not trash,” Ortiz said.
While the homeless people at the library said they believe officials are taking their personal belongings to get them to go to shelters, across the street at the police department, Greg Wilking said it’s only what’s left behind.
“The people that are there, they pick up their belongings that they want to take with them, and they leave, and they leave behind items and that’s what they’re actually cleaning up,” Wilking said.
Speaking of the social media posts pointing blame at officials for taking personal items is a false narrative, Wilking said.
“We can’t take people’s things. We can’t just show up. I can’t just come and take your coat from ya because I want to. Just like I can’t come and take somebody’s sleeping bag,” Wilking said. “We’re removing items, or the health department is removing items that are being left behind. That are being abandoned.”
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