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SALT LAKE CITY — Police officers, health care providers and veterans' administration representatives came together to help Salt Lake's homeless as part of the first street outreach program Wednesday.
Operation Outreach is a new attempt to help the homeless. Community Partners walked through Pioneer Park and invited homeless to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about free services. They said it is an attempt to help a group who may not know or understand where to go for help.
Salt Lake police officers brought the mobile command center and set up tables and chairs.
"I understand that there are folks who don't trust the police department," said Sgt. Michelle Ross of the Salt Lake City Police Department. "They think we're doing some sort of operation, spying on somebody and it's not. It's us working with service providers to get these guys the services they're eligible for."
She said some are veterans and some have families, but they all need help.
"I knew I had some options, but with me losing my apartment through housing I didn't know I could back into it again at all, and that worried me with my kids," Tiffany Galloway said.
Representatives from Valley Mental Health, the 4th Street Clinic, Catholic Community Services, the Road Home and Aging Services were there with information.
"The population of homeless people is not static," said Salt Lake City Justice Court Judge John Baxter. "It's not always the same people, year after year after year. Many of those folks I've seen in the past are housed now. So, you may have people coming here today who are new in town and have no idea about them."
Char McCuaig, with Volunteers of America, said she was pleased with the turnout. She said she came to let people know how to change their lives.
"They get tired, they want things to change and they don't know how to do it and that's why we're out here to let them know we can help them over the hurdles," McCuiag said. "They don't have to do it alone, and I think that's huge."
One volunteer, John Wilkes, has been homeless twice. Now he is paying it forward.
"All of that help just made me think about, you know, 'Wow, that one person made that big difference for me; why can't I do the same thing for other people?' " said Wilkes, who is now with the 4th Street consumer advocacy board.
Sgt. Michelle Ross of Salt Lake PD said she and her community team plan to be in Pioneer Park every week. Next week's goal will be getting people ID's and helping them fill out applications.