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SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday was a first-of-its-kind operation involving thousands of pounds of trash and a helicopter from the Department of Public Safety.
It all has to do with cleaning up a variety of homeless camps that have popped up along the hillside just northwest of the Utah Capitol near Beck Street and Victory Road in Salt Lake City.
Kerry Cramer, the supervisor of the bureau of sanitation for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said they're doing a "major cleanup on the side of the hill" after a "number of homeless camps that we’ve been forced to clean up."
He added that they've "gotten out of control" and are "creating a health problem.” Cleaning up homeless camps on the hillside is nothing new, but bringing in a helicopter to haul away the thousands of pounds of stuff has never been done before.
“There is quite a bit out there. It’s surprising how much,” said Dept. of Public Safety Chief pilot Luke Bowman. “(The) biggest challenge we have today is a little bit of wind.”
KSL was here to capture the operation taking place. Work release inmates from the county jail were brought in to help clean up the camps.
They hiked their way into the location and filled dozens and dozens of orange bags which were placed together on a large net. The helicopter would then pick up the net and bring it to the bottom of the hill. Those bags would then be loaded into two huge dump trucks to be taken to the landfill.
“We are looking at tons of solid waste," Cramer said. "Some of the camps have been up here a long time and the longer they’ve been here the more stuff they accumulate. So it just reaches a critical mass something has to be done.”
One worker said she couldn’t believe the amount of stuff they were pulling out of makeshift housing places located in very discreet areas.
“I’ve never seen anything like it," the worker said. "I didn’t know this stuff existed. … It was pretty scary. We found a black mask in a tent with a couple of hammers and knife, and needles. The thought of what could have happened is pretty scary.”
The health department said for the past two weeks it has been getting the word out to those living on the mountainside so that they could gather their belongings. They say relief organizations have been helping the homeless to find other housing options.