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Operation Rio Grande forcing hundreds of homeless to southern Utah cities

Operation Rio Grande forcing hundreds of homeless to southern Utah cities (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) The big crack down on drugs and violence in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City has made the homeless scatter all around the state.

Every week police are busting drug dealers and preventing violence in the small section of downtown, but now officials in Washington County are finding that the homeless from up north are popping up in cities like St. George.

“From a law enforcement stand point, what kind of individuals do we have coming to into the community? We have no idea what their criminal history is,” Sheriff of Washington County, Cory Pulsipher said.

Most of the homeless who make camp in St. George or Washington County are currently staying at Switchpoint homeless shelter, which is also the only homeless shelter in the county.

There are 88 beds available and that includes open floor space explained Carol Hollowell, Director of Switchpoint. Hollowell told 2News that every one of those beds are being used.

The shelter has been at capacity since Operation Rio Grande started and they’ve had to turn dozens of homeless that came from the Rio Grande area away.

“We weren't prepared for it,” Hollowell said.

The biggest fear for law enforcement and Hollowell right now is the potential for fallout.

“That fallout could be criminal activity, it could be loitering, trespassing,” Hollowell said. She believes that illegal drugs could be involved, and that’s what law enforcement is worried about.

“There's a whole culture that comes with it. Quite honestly we want to do everything we can to help them get out of that culture but we also have a duty to protect the residents that live here,” Pulsipher said.

To hear from residents and what officials in Washington County are doing to help prevent negative impact watch the news story above.

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