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Homelessness Looms In 2016 Gubernatorial Race
Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City police arrested 49 people Thursday in an effort to weed out drug dealers hidden in crowds of homeless people. Police Chief Mike Brown told the media that drug dealers were mingling among the nearly 2,000 homeless people in the Rio Grande area of the city, which has seen serious incidents of violence in recent months.

During Monday’s gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate Mike Wienholtz criticized the state’s handling of homelessness.

“The state needs to lead out on this because our homelessness problem is getting worse every day. By the way, it’s directly related to our economy and there aren’t enough people able to get good-paying jobs,” Weinholtz said. “The other issue, I come back to Medicaid expansion again because so many of the homeless people have mental health issues or addiction issues and if they were receiving the proper treatment we could get them off the street.”

Republican incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert countered that his administration has worked diligently to find a solution to homelessness in Utah.

“It’s not a matter of people just don’t have a home and don’t have a job, they have substance abuse problems, mental health problems, a lot of issues that need to be addressed. Some of what’s taking place in downtown Salt Lake is a local government problem,” Herbert said. “We are serious about this. This is a lot about economic development. There’s a reason why we have one third less poverty in the state of Utah than other states. We’re the best in the nation. I was just with Speaker [of the House of Representatives Paul] Ryan and others in our congressional delegation. They were touting the fact that we are the best in America today.”

On Friday, the Salt Lake City Council agreed to build four homeless shelters that will contain more than 150 beds each.